New Delhi: Blaming 'vested interests' for delaying the Road Safety Bill, Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari today said its non-passage remains his "biggest regret" as more people are getting killed every year in road accidents than in "wars, terror attacks or epidemics".
Mr Gadkari, known to speak his mind, did not name the "vested interests" who are trying to scuttle the new law but said these are the people who are "opposed to transparency and computerisation in the highways sector".
"In India, 30 per cent of the driving licenses are bogus... There has been large-scale corruption in RTOs... Misconception was generated by those who will get affected due to transparency in the new legislation," the Minister told PTI in an interview in New Delhi.
The proposed law seeks to come down heavily on traffic offenders and proposes steep penalties of up to Rs three lakh along with a minimum 7-year imprisonment for death in road accidents, besides hefty fines for driving violations.
It would also overhaul the road transport and highways sector bringing in more transparency and curbing malpractices, Mr Gadkari said while adding that the proposed legislation incorporates the best global practises and will curb road accidents. He pegged the annual loss to the economy due to accidents in India at close to 3 per cent of the GDP.
India sees nearly five lakh road accidents a year in which 1.5 lakh people die and another 3 lakh get crippled.
"Ever since I have taken charge of the sector, the biggest regret that keeps me haunting is that despite best of our best intentions, Road Safety Bill is stuck...I feel pained and helpless to see 1.5 lakh Indians, mostly youth, dying on roads," Mr Gadkari said.
"Not so many people die in war or terror attack or naxalite killing...not even in epidemics... It gives me sleepless nights and I want to cut accidents by at least 50 per cent as early as possible," the Minister said.
Mr Gadkari, who said his dream is to overhaul India's infrastructure to the level of the best in the world, said the subject is "close to his heart" but despite "devoting day and night" to correct the flaws, he has not been able to get the crucial bill governing road sector see light of the day.