Gandhinagar: Union Minister Nitin Gadkari does not tire of saying that hefty fines for traffic rule violations are aimed at curbing road accidents. But Gujarat Chief Minister seems to have his own take on the popular disquiet that has surfaced over the steep rise in penalties.
Trying to fend off demands for similar official accountability for poor services like bad roads, the Gujarat government has announced a reduction in the fines and said that the new Motor Vehicles Act will be implemented in the state from September 16. The Central rules come into effect from September 1.
CM Vijay Rupani has asserted that the state government had the powers to make changes in the fine structure. However, he possibly does not realise that other States too could embark on a similar journey, thereby making a mockery of Gadkari’s rationale that stringent rules were "much needed" as people take traffic laws very lightly and there is neither fear, nor respect for law.
Ironically, Rupani himself admits that strict rules and an element of deterrence in the shape of fines is essential to ensure compliance. More so, since Gujarat alone reports over 8000 traffic deaths annually, he pointed out.
Under the new fine structure in Gujarat, the penalty for not wearing a helmet has been changed to Rs 500, which is Rs 1000 under the MV Act while violations for not wearing seat belts will invite a fine of Rs 500, as against Rs 1000 in the original rules.
Similarly, driving a vehicle without a driving license will attract a fine of Rs 2000 in the case of two-wheelers and Rs 3000 for the rest, as against Rs 5000 under the new rule.
For riding triples, the fine will be Rs 100, as against Rs 1000 in the MV Act; and driving a polluting vehicle will invite a fine of Rs 10,000 under the new MV Act, whereas in Gujarat it will be Rs 1000 for small vehicles and Rs 3000 for large vehicles.
It is understood that once the reality of the hefty fine structure soaked in, a murmur of protest began in the State harping on the lack of accountability on the part of the government and local bodies in ensuring proper civic services for the tax payers.
Posters appeared in the chief ministers home town Rajkot that similar accountability be fixed and prompt action be taken against officials when there are problems of poor quality.
As the murmurs gathered momentum on the social media, the government moved to placate incensed public opinion with concessions.
BY R K MISRA