Strong efforts are being made to improve safety of vehicles to ensure that even the cheapest models also have the best safety parameters. The Ministry has launched a mission to upgrade the standards at par with the global standards, says Abhay Damle, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) , Government of India, in conversation with Gautam Debroy of Elets News Network (ENN).
Tell us about your initiative to promote affordable mobility for lower and middle classes?
In December, 2016 guidelines for healthy growth of the ride sharing sector in the country were issued. The States have started facilitating the aggregator services (hired cabs) for the benefit of common public. Aggregator based taxi services have helped reduce the travel costs by about 30-40 per cent. In the case of car pooling, the saving is more than 50 per cent. It has also helped in reducing congestion due to lesser dependence on personnel cars and idle running of such cars. The Ministry has exempted the e-rickshaw from the permit requirements. This has helped in growth of the e-rickshaw in the country providing non-polluting very affordable last mile connectivity to the lower and middle income group.
Have you also taken steps to simplify forms for obtaining driving licenses?
The ministry had issued advisory to the states to do away with the requirement of obtaining a transport license for light motor vehicles. Earlier, the auto rickshaw, taxi and LCV drivers were required to renew their license every three years. This was leading to inconvenience. Millions of drivers will benefit from the decision that the taxi and LCV drivers shall not require separate commercial licence. The Ministry has replaced multiple forms required for obtaining the learner licence, permanent licence or for updating the details with a simple single form. Inclusion of Aadhaar number and the option for organ donation has also been provided in the new simplified form.
Tell us about your online services for vehicle registration and driving licence.
The Vahan 4 and Sarathi 4 online platforms for vehicle registration and the driving licenses were launched in 2015. As on date, about 90 per cent offices are providing online services to the driving licence applicants. This has improved the ease of transactions with the transport departments and has given relief to the public from rent seeking practices. The beneficiaries are largely from the middle class.
What is your take on eliminating VIP culture?
By removing red and amber lights from the vehicles of various authorities based on the decision of Union Cabinet, the Ministry has revised the rule for sporting the light on the top of the vehicles and practice of use of red and amber lights used by unauthorised people has been done away with. Only emergency duty vehicles are allowed to have light on the top. This has been a game changing regulations, giving the common public a sense of equality.
Tell us about your initiatives taken to improve the safety of vehicles sold and compensation of road victims?
Efforts have been made to ensure that even the lowest category of passenger vehicle sold in the country comply with the enhanced safety standards. The safety for common man is not negotiable and, therefore, the Ministry has issued regulations to improve safety of the two-wheelers, cars and heavy vehicles. Similarly, the emission norms have been tightened to relieve the cities from high level of vehicular pollution. To assist the accident victims in getting speedier and reasonable compensation from insurance companies, the Ministry has notified that every accident victim or his next of kin, compensation of Rs 5 lakh in case of death. Further, in case of grevious hurt and disablement, the compensation amount shall be upto Rs 5 lakh proportionate to the extent of injury caused. This will ensure that even the poorest of the poor gets a decent compensation. Notwithstanding this, the accident victim reserves the right to claim a higher compensation through the court, if he is not satisfied with this amount of compensation.
What are the significant features of Motor Vehicles (Amendment Bill), 2017?
This Bill proposes far reaching reforms to improve road safety and the ease of transaction with the transport departments. This proposes simplifications, provision of online services to the customers and reducing discretion. The bill has been passed by the Lok Sabha in April 2017 and is pending consideration and passage by the Rajya Sabha. Once passed by the Rajya Sabha, the bill shall help in reducing the corruption in transport sector and facilitate the delivery of services in an expeditious and objective manner.
Tell us about your initiatives about vehicle and passengers’ safety?
Strong efforts are being made to improve safety of all the types of vehicles to ensure that even the cheapest models also have the best safety parameters. The Ministry has launched a mission to upgrade the standards at par with the global standards. All two wheelers have been mandated to be fitted with Combined Braking System (CBS)/ Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS) with effect from April, 2019. This will improve the on-road safety of two wheelers by avoiding skidding. Apart from this, all the two wheelers have also been mandated to have a day light running system to improve their conspicuity. Helmet is provided as a compulsory accessory at the time of sale of all new two wheelers. This has helped to improve helmet compliance amongst two wheeler riders.
The Ministry has framed new standards for user friendly helmets which will reduce the cost of the helmets while providing the best comfort as well as safety to the users. All passenger cars are also mandated to be fitted with ABS to improve their safety and stability. All the cars will also have compulsory air-bags, speed warning audio alert, seat belt audio alerts and reverse sensors. All heavy vehicles have been mandated to have ABS fitted on them. The bus body code has been implemented which would also help improve the passenger safety as well as unsure minimum level of comfort. The truck body code has also been notified.