Transport offices in Haryana and Odisha have collected more than Rs 1.4 crore in fines and penalties since new traffic rules under the revised Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill 2019 came into effect on Sunday. Haryana has raised Rs 52 lakh, with nearly Rs 10 lakh from just Gurgaon. Odisha has collected more than Rs 88 lakh; Rs 24.4 lakh on Tuesday and nearly Rs 30 lakh on Wednesday.
Record traffic fine collections over the past five days prompted an outburst from Congress leader Randeep Surjewala, who took to Twitter today to criticise Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar's government, posting snapshots of two Hindi news reports that highlighted fines of Rs 59,000 for a tractor driver and Rs 94,000 for an auto driver.
"Khattar government is openly looting the public," he wrote.
According to the report shared by Mr Surjewala, Gurgaon police issued traffic violation challans to three auto drivers on Thursday. The first of these was for Rs 94,000 and the other two were for Rs 37,000 and Rs 27,000. The drivers of all three autos were allegedly operating without proper documents.
The report also mentions that on Wednesday, a scooter rider was fined Rs 23,000 and another auto driver was issued a challan for Rs 25,000.
In another news report highlighted by Mr Surjewala, a tractor driver was fined a total of Rs 59,000 for as many as 10 offences; these included driving without a license or valid vehicle registration, violating pollution laws and disobeying police orders.
In response to public outcry against the revised fines, the Haryana government has directed state police to exercise caution while issuing challans, citing an order from the ministry of road transport and highways that states citizens with documents in digital forms could not be penalised.
Anger over road fines couldn't come at a worse time for the BJP-led government in Haryana, with assembly elections due in a few months. The fines highlighted by Mr Surjewala were issued by the Gurgaon traffic police.
Many believe the stricter penalties under the new law will improve road safety across the country. On Saturday, Delhi Transport Minister Kailash Gahlot said the fines would "definitely result in reduction in accidents and improve compliance of traffic rules by vehicle owners."
However, states like Punjab and Madhya Pradesh --both Congress-ruled -- have yet to enforce the new penalties over concerns of heavy fines for minor offences.
Despite Mr Gahlot's statement, Delhi has also yet to issue a notification and is set to hold talks with "various stakeholders including traffic police" to discuss if some cases can be settled out of court.
Under the new laws, offences such as driving without seatbelts or a valid licence will now invite fines of Rs 1,000 and Rs 5,000 respectively; the earlier amounts were Rs 100 and Rs 500. Drivers exceeding speed limits can expect to pay between Rs 1,000 and Rs 2,000, and drunk drivers will have to pay Rs 10,000.
There are as many 15 possible traffic violations, and the total of fines that can be imposed for these violations is believed to be Rs 74,000.