The pollution check of my vehicle had long been overdue but I was taking it easy. Soon after the implementation of the amended Motor Vehicle Act 2019, as the messages of hefty penalties on traffic violators started flooding the social media, I sprang into action. Without further dilly-dallying, I drove my vehicle straight to the pollution check booth. Not surprisingly, there was a long queue. Like me, many had spurred into action because of the fear of heavy fines. Since September 1, renewal of vehicle insurance has witnessed a significant jump as many had been holding expired policies.
Indeed, we are casual about the rules unless forced to comply with. Persuasive measures don’t seem to cut ice with us. Perhaps we need heavy fines and the fear of law to deter us from traffic violations. There is a saying in Hindi “Laton ke bhoot baton se nahin mante”. (Those who do not understand the language of persuasion need fear of harsh punishments and penalties).
Our sab chalta hai attitude is abundantly evident on the roads as the traffic rules are broken with impunity. Aghast at our utter disregard for the traffic lights, Oprah Winfrey, the American talk show host icon on a visit to India a few years ago remarked, “Is the traffic light there just for your entertainment?” It is a fact that many of us care two hoots for the rules. No wonder, driving in our country, negotiating with the erratic drivers and chaotic traffic is a nightmare.
While we appreciate the disciplined and organized traffic in the developed countries, we show utter disregard for the traffic rules in our own country. Fines for traffic violations abroad are quite high in America and Australia even as per their income standards. People strictly obey the traffic rules there as they know they will have to shell out hefty sum if they break the rules. Here in India we refuse to mend our ways. Many are angry that they can’t afford to pay the fines as these are high. I wonder why they must pay the penalty, it’s certainly not mandatory to break the traffic rules.
The provisions of the new Act may be harsh but needed to make us disciplined on the roads. Fines should be tough enough to bite but can curb traffic violations if the rules are implemented strictly, honestly and without any prejudice. The same rules should apply to everyone, not just the commoners but also the high and the mighty. Of course, it is quite likely that heavy penalties result into hefty bribes for the traffic police. But the violators cannot take a moral high ground when they break the traffic rules and then try to circumvent the system by offering bribes. Definitely, we need transparent, corruption-free traffic enforcement. Technology in the form of CCTV can provide low cost effective solution so that cops don’t bully the common man.
Adherence to traffic rules is fundamental to road safety but is equally important that the roads are not potholed, are well maintained with proper signage and lights. Stray cattle on roads, a major traffic hazard needs to be tackled. Instead of focusing on these crucial issues, ironically the state governments are into a popularity contest trying to soften the provisions of the act.
Let the amended Motor Vehicle Act be a new journey towards safe driving. Hopefully it should help in bringing about the much needed behavioral change from casual, Sab chalta hai attitude to discipline on roads making our life easier and roads safer.
(Published in HT Chandigarh , Sunday Read on 12 September 2019)