Parl panel asks govt to withdraw road safety bill
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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.


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

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