Parl panel asks govt to withdraw road safety bill

Last Updated: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 - 19:48

New Delhi: In what could be a setback for
the Road Transport and Highways Ministry, a Parliamentary
panel today recommended withdrawal of a bill that seeks to set
up an independent body for road safety.

Road Transport and Highways Minister Kamal Nath had
introduced in the Lok Sabha on May 4, the `National Road
Safety and Traffic Management Bill` which proposes creation of
National Road Safety and Traffic Management Board.

"The Bill has no relevance. We have strongly recommended
its withdrawal," the Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing
Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture, Sitaram Yechury,
told reporters after submitting the report to the presiding
officers of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha.

He said the proposed board not only lacks teeth but is
limited to safety concerns on the national highways which
account for only two per cent of country`s road network while
70 per cent of the accidents take place on other roads.

Advisory in nature, it lacks powers for effective
coordination among various agencies of the Centre and state
governments, besides there is no dearth of agencies looking
into the road safety issues, the panel said.

The committee felt there should not be any Board just for
placement of retired bureaucrats, Yechury said, adding the
qualifications required for the Board`s chairperson have been
diluted.

"The Committee is surprised to note that while the
members of the Board will be having requisite experiences
... the Chairperson will be simply having adequate knowledge
and professional experience in administration and road
transport," the report said.

The Bill also envisages creation of National Road Safety
and Traffic Management Fund for meeting the expenses of the
board by levying one per cent of cess on petrol and diesel.

The bill has provisions of slapping a penalty of Rs one
million for failing to maintain standards by the builder while
constructing national highways as recommended by the board.

India accounts for a high number of road accidents, which
rose to 1,15,000 in 2007 from 85,000 in 2002, he said adding
that unofficial sources put the figure even high.

Yechury said the proposed board is also against the
recommendation of the Sundar Committee, which went into the
entire gamut of road safety and management in 2007.

The Parliamentary panel recommended that the "government
should come out with a comprehensive legislation with holistic
perspective".

Yechury said state governments should be involved in
framing legislation. Alternatively, a provision which already
exists in the Motor Transport Vehicle Act for establishing
road safety councils, be implemented.

He said the government has no policy on road safety,
while the Parliamentary committee had suggested the need for
it way back in 2006.

"There are no trauma centres on highway despite
recommendations," he said.

The government chose to set up the board studying the
road safety frameworks in the US, the UK or Sweden. There is a
need that it be compared with neighbouring China or countries
like Brazil and South Africa, he said.

Finding flaws with the toll policy on the national
highways, Yechury said the committee found "illegal toll
practices" in some states. He said vehicles are being
subjected to double taxation as they also pay road cess on
petrol and diesel, besides toll charges.

India has one of the largest road networks in the world,
aggregating to about 33 lakh kilometres at present, of which
National Highways network is 70,548 km, 2 per cent of the
total length of roads.

PTI



First Published: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 - 19:48

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