The necessary amendment
With the clearance of the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2019 by the Rajya Sabha on July 31, the passage for proposed changes looks clear–awaiting the President's assent now. What is intriguing about the amendment bill, which was stuck in the corridors of the Upper House since 2017, is the long list of penalties that have undergone refurbishing. These penalties, which are the prime catalyst for deterrence, have for long been meagre. This meagreness has promoted a sense of impunity and has caused widespread flouting of traffic rules. It is the individual perception which will be stand justified since everyone who holds a driver's license will acknowledge how simple traffic violations are not seen as a cause of concern. For instance, not wearing seat-belt has been a common violation simply because a menial sum of 100 rupees serves as the fine for such violation. 100 rupees is still a sum one can afford over repeated offences but 1000 rupees will leave them scratching heads and thinking twice before committing the offence. To this length, all penalties have been revised under the amendment bill which will now aim at effective deterrence. This has been done to ensure road safety and curb traffic violations which are more often than not the reason for road accidents. Speeding will now attract a fine of Rs 5000 against Rs 500 earlier. Here the bigger penalty reforms have been a fine of Rs 1000 for riding a two-wheeler without a helmet along with disqualification of license for 3 months against just Rs 100 before–that too with the advantage of riding the bike without a helmet for the next 24 hours from the time of challan. No helmets are perhaps the easiest procurable fines on a daily basis which will now become a serious issue after the amendments are enacted. Apart from reforming existing violations, new norms have been added in the light of observations made over road traffic and safety. New norms include Rs 25,000 with 3 years imprisonment as the penalty for the guardian/owner if a juvenile is found operating a vehicle. This is particularly important since juveniles, having lesser road-sense, have higher chances of getting involved in accidents. The new law will grant officers the power to suspend the driver's licenses and will attract twice the penalty if the violator is found to be an enforcing officer. The cornerstone of the bill is the scheme for cashless treatment of road accident victims during golden hour and also protection of the person who renders emergency medical or non-medical assistance to a victim at the scene of an accident. Besides these, the provision to apply for a learner's license online will come as super handy for the first-timers and reduce the load and expedite the process for issuing licenses manifold. The desperately-needed new norms will try to ensure greater safety on roads while making transport-related queries easier to be addressed through online systems. Though initially, the amendments will require some time to be completely implemented but once in practice, it will gradually change the public mindset and enable a safe and secure system.