'Unacceptable as bill is intrusive, takes away our rights'

Karnataka and Tamil Nadu are among the states which have opposed several provisions of the Road Transport and Safety Bill, calling it unacceptable in its present form, a threat to the constitutional powers of the states, and that it makes serious intrusion into their financial, legislative and administrative abilities. 

According to the Congress government in Karnataka, there are several contentious points in the proposed bill on controlling and regulating motor vehicles besides taking away the powers of the states for levying taxes on motor vehicles, establishing motor vehicles department, appointing officials etc.

Joining hands with the neighbouring Karnataka, the AIADMK-ruled TN government says the bill encroaches upon the powers of the state and envisages privatisation of licensing procedures and authorities. 

Both states are strongly opposed to the proposal to the formation of independent statutory bodies like National Transport Authority “which has been given sweeping and wide ranging powers” for making regulations which hitherto were being done by the state governments.

Lashing out at the Centre for making some proposals unpalatable to the state governments, Karnataka transport minister Ramalinga Reddy told Deccan Herald: “the bill takes away powers vested with the states.” 

Says TN transport minister Senthil Balaji: “The competence of the state legislature and the state government to frame rules on road transport and public safety has been completely eroded and sought to be vested with statutory bodies to be created under the new bill. It envisages privatisation of licensing procedures and authorities which will be detrimental to the safety and security of the public and their welfare.”

Reddy says though the move to increase penalty for accidents and drunken driving are welcome so as to curb the horrors on the road and impart discipline in road users, the proposal to liberally issuing permits to private operators to operate in state it will be a threat to the State Transport Undertakings. 

“We have 1.15 lakh employees put together in the transport corporations. Competing with private bus operators will be risking the livelihood of the employees and incurring loss of revenue. The public transport corporations also need to have routes in remote villages and areas.

 Providing safe and reliable buses to the people is the motto of these corporations whereas private buses have no such obligation. Also, the new bill takes away the power to declare any bus route as nationalised and allowing only state road transport undertaking buses to ply on such routes.” 

Reddy said the states will not have any control over the corporations as they will come under Motor Vehicle Regulation and Road Safety Authority of India. The role of the National Transport Authority should be only advisory and not “regulatory or directory” as proposed, he added. 

On the clause where the power of testing drivers and inspection of motor vehicles would be handed over to private agencies, Reddy said, “ The issuance of driving licenses, driving test certificates, fitness certificates are very important responsibilities and go a long way in road safety. These shall not be entrusted to any private party. It shall be continued to be vested with the officers of the motor vehicle department established by the state government.”

Major revenue source

Tamil Nadu transport minister Balaji says the motor vehicle tax, which is a major revenue source to the state exchequer, is left to the decision of the National Authority under the bill which also envisages privatisation of licensing procedures and authorities which will be detrimental to the safety and security of the public. His state is opposed to these provisions.

The role of STCs, according to him, have been totally obliterated and their ability to provide affordable transport facilities to the common man, particularly the marginalised, downtrodden and those in remote rural areas will be in jeopardy. 

Powers of issuing of inter-state and intra-state permits which have been the exclusive preserve of the states have been abrogated and entrusted with the newly created independent authorities that are merely creatures of the proposed Act. 

The competence of the state legislature and the state government to frame rules on road transport, public safety has been completely eroded and sought to be vested with statutory bodies to be created under the new bill.

”The penal provisions envisaged for traffic offences are grossly contrary to the provisions of the IPC and, therefore, are unacceptable. The rationale to introduce such drastic changes and throw away lock, stock and barrel the existing provisions in the Motor Vehicle Act 1988 is totally unwarranted.”

These changes will cast a shadow on the Directive Principles of the State Policy enshrined in the Constitution. Balaji added: "It, therefore, requires redrafting which will be examined clause-wise and communicated to the Government of India within a month". 

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