Touted as the biggest proposed reform in the roads sector, the Motor Vehicle (Amendment) Bill, 2017 — which is pending parliamentary approval in the Rajya Sabha — is likely to be approved in the Upper House, senior government officials believe, adding, clauses opposed in the bill will not be amended.
The bill seeks to amend the 30-year-old Motor Vehicle Act, 1988, and aims to address issues on third party insurance, regulation of cab aggregators, road safety, opening the public transport sector for private players and regulate permits. It also proposes a National Transportation Policy for ushering guidelines on transportation of goods and passengers.
The controversial amendment bill, drafted in 2016, was approved by the Lok Sabha in April 2017, followed by nationwide strikes by public transport organisations. The Upper House is expected to take up this bill for debate and pass it in the ongoing winter session.
“It was already introduced in Rajya Sabha in the monsoon session. It has to go for final approval now; just consideration and passing is left now. We feel it may be passed. We are not in a mood to negotiate on the clauses which have been opposed as we feel their concerns can be addressed through rules and the minister has already assured them. Overall, there are no major issues, it’s mainly a political ploy to try and stop the passage of the bill,” said a road transport ministry official, requesting anonymity.
One of the key aspects of the proposed bill is to drastically improve road safety in the country, the bill proposes a National Road Safety Board. It also proposes increasing penalties for several offences, protection of Good Samaritans and a unified license system.
The bill also allows the central government to order for a recall of motor vehicles if a defect in them seems to cause damage to the environment or to the driver and other road users.
“There are 91 clauses in the bill and only a couple of clauses are left in which states require little bit of more clarification while the rest have been agreed upon by all. Therefore, at least 95% of the bill has been accepted. Only clauses, where issues remain, are where interstate issues come up. In Section 66 — which involves interstate permits and a national scheme on transportation — states have issues regarding certain wordings. They fear that the Centre will take over and negate their powers, which is not the case. We are absolutely clear that not an iota of state government’s power will be taken by the Centre. West Bengal and some southern states have opposed to this earlier, and hopefully, we will resolve in this session,” said another senior official at the road transport ministry.
Opposing parties feel the bill could potentially lead to privatisation of public transport.
“After getting passed in Lok Sabha, it was sent to the select committee in Rajya Sabha and the committee did not make any change, ignoring the opinion of the select committee members. The provisions in the bill taken together will destroy state-run public transport. It will lead to their closure. The way they have centralised powers in the bill, the state departments will barely have any say. Practically, this will lead to a complete privatisation of state-owned transport system. Therefore, this should be completely scrapped,” said Tapan Sen, general secretary, Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), who had called the nationwide strike against the bill after its passage in Lok Sabha.
The introduction of a cab aggregator system for the private sector will eliminate small operators and crease a monopoly for big corporates in the sector, Sen added.
“We have already filed our objections with the bill to the select committee in Rajya Sabha. If the bill is passed, the government would pave way for huge corruption through higher penalties proposed in the bill,” said Sanjay Samrat, president, Delhi Taxi Tourist Transport Association.
First Published: Dec 14, 2018 18:18 IST
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