Changes introduced in the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019 are turning out to be hugely problematic for the common man. Penalties for traffic violations have been increased substantially, resulting in fines that run into thousands of Rupees. In many cases, the fines imposed have been more than the offender’s monthly income.
To add to the misery, traffic police department in various states are digging up old rules to penalize commuters. The latest to join the list is the ban on wearing chappals/sandals while riding a geared motorcycle. Under the new rules, if anyone is caught wearing chappal/sandal while riding a geared motorcycle, they could be fined Rs 1,000. Offenders could also be sent to jail for 15 days.
This rule had existed for several years, but till now, it was not strictly implemented. However, with the amended MV Act, traffic policemen in some regions have started enforcing this rule.
The chappal/sandal rule is based on the premise that such footwear might create issues with shifting gears. It can also result in problems with applying the brakes at the right time. The logic makes sense, but the rule will create further problems for commuters, as majority of India rides their motorcycles wearing chappals/sandals.
While the objectives of the new traffic rules are meant for a good cause – to reduce accidents, injuries and fatalities – the way it is being implemented and the steep fines are creating challenges for the common man. Protests against the new rules are gaining momentum and social media channels are abuzz with these developments. Many states such as Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Goa, Kerala and Punjab have chosen not to implement the new rules in its present form.
In view of the new rules, people are coming up with their own suggestions and recommendations. For example, some people have suggested that similar rules be framed for officials responsible for maintenance of roads. Even Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik has directed officials not to impose hefty penalties on offenders for three months.
The state will first focus on creating awareness and then think about the fines. This seems a much better approach, as compared to the existing shock and awe strategy being followed by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, Government of India.