From 1st September 2019 Government of India started applying modified rules and regulations to people breaking laws on Indian roads. RTO is road transport organisation. Indians as a society have remained fixated to old–time India when bullock-carts or walking was the primary mode of going from place A to place B. There have been laws and rules even before 1st September 2019, but the fines and punishment had not been modified with changing times. To give you a better perspective of the penalties, I will share some information. I paid Rs 110/ as my term fee for engineering course. A new car would cost 8 to 10 thousand rupees. The year was in early ’70 s of the last century. Now I am told that the fees are rupees one hundred and fifty thousand and the new car costs in the region of Rs five hundred thousand. But the fines for breaking laws remained Rs one hundred to Rs five hundred.
I am writing this blog with real anguish and frustration about our brethren’s views about these changes. Not one person has openly said that he entirely agrees with what the Government has done. We always talk about our five–thousand-year-old culture, of which we are rightly proud. But any system needs to change with time. It needs to be modified as we move forward. We talk about having fantastic places from snow–clad mountains, to beaches, to forests in India! Why many small countries still attract more tourists than India? Reasons are simple and obvious. No area in India looks neat, organised and modern. By these words I do no talk of shining new skyscrapers, I am not talking of gleaming Metros or buses. I mean that we do not have a disciplined society, people and systems! Our cities look archaic and chaotic.
It was always said that the government has been too weak; there is too much corruption at the lower level. How can we ever change? We had the same attitude about the Kashmir issue. When the British left India in 1947, they created a big mess which continued till 5th August 2019. The similar mess could continue till 31st August on our roads. With low fines, poor implementation of laws, Indian road traffic has been chaotic to talk generously. But the government took decisive and bold steps.
With new laws, there will be fear in the mind of people. Even if the police continue to take bribes, because of the high level of fines, “settlement” will be expensive! Many educated people have suddenly started feeling about poor people who will have to pay the hefty fines, which may also include confiscation of vehicles. When I argued with people why worry about hefty fines, people should not break the rules! People have no answers or have lame replies.
Kashmir situation and Indian road situations are very similar. A similar situation was present in the building/construction industry too! The sector was breaking the rules at every stage, cheating customers with impunity. They were getting away with murder, figuratively. With the introduction of RERA, it ensured that the industry follows laws or else! In Delhi NCR area before RERA introduction, 2/3 large construction companies cheated almost a hundred thousand people; they took advance money and never gave them homes. The directors and promoters of these companies are now in jail.
Indian roads and automotive users are breaking basic laws without any fear. Entering from the wrong direction in one-way streets, parking vehicle below the No Parking boards, driving Motorcycles on footpaths is a common sight. I have seen young gentlemen throwing five hundred rupees note at the policeman who caught them.
Pune is a unique city where so–called intellectuals are born with an extraordinary brain. It is the only city in India where people are formally demanding to cancel the helmet usage rule for two-wheelers. The demand is led by a trained engineer who has lived in the US for about 15 years. Statistically, it is proven that when the helmet is worn, in 90 % cases death is avoided, if an accident takes place. But the counter–argument is, it is our life! (Extraordinary brain!)
Now the fines are so hefty that once the stories of penalties and punishment start trickling down, people will think ten times before casually breaking the law. Some people on our WhatsApp group are arguing differently. It is a group of engineering college batchmates who have seen the world and done well in life. The government which cannot give pothole–free roads, good traffic signals has no moral rights to punish people for breaking the rules. Are you entering the wrong direction on one–way entry road because of pot-holes? Is it due to bad traffic signals? Are you driving your motorcycle on foot-path for these same reasons? Are you going helmetless on two-wheelers for these reasons?
These two are independent subjects and need to be discussed separately. By all means, agitate against these issues. Make sure your non-performing representative loses the next election. But here again, there is a problem. Who has time to go for voting every five years? Is it not easy to simply break the traffic rules?
Friends, we have no justification for our acts whatever you may argue. Some years back, our flight from Frankfurt to Mumbai was announced with a request to allow passengers using a wheelchair to board first. It took ten minutes for the airport staff to literally push away people who were not allowing wheel-chair bound passengers to board first. 95% of the passengers were Indians. What were we protesting against at Frankfurt airport?
Since last two days, there is road repair work on the street where my daughter lives in Montreal. Boards are saying, “No parking from 7 am to 7 pm.” Never saw a single car parked there during this period. I am not saying people don’t break the rules in other countries, but the percentage of such people is minimal.
On one side in India, we have the Lutyens gang, the liberals who protest against anything done by the government. When courts gave death punishment to a terrorist, many years back, there were protests about human rights. When Kashmiri youth were pelting stones at the soldiers, there were protests when pellet guns were used. There were no protests against stone-pelting. Pakistan based terrorists made attacks in Kashmir; objections were raised if terrorists were killed but not when soldiers were killed. Kashmir used to be under lock-down for 2 to 3 months at a time due to strikes made by people against some actions taken by the government. Now after 5th August, there is a government lock-down and liberals are protesting.
Some of the main–stream leaders have made statements against the government act about article 370. India is a democracy; we have rights to protest. But these people could have protested against the method used, the procedure followed during this act. But when Pakistan was following the doctrine of 1000 cuts against India, nobody complained much, in fact, they challenged the retaliations made by the Indian government.
To me, all such people are hollow people; these are vain people. When the government does not act, blame them correctly. But finally, when the government acts, they are now saying, old things were better. Rules from the times of bullock cart days were the best. In Pune, I have observed that the traffic jams are mainly due to indisciplined driving habits of the people.
One day, I was taking a right turn at a signal at Nal Stop Chowk in Pune. Suddenly, about 20 two-wheeler riders decided that they were too much in a hurry and simply drove through the red signal; the policeman was standing near the signal naturally could not react! Is it not a classic case to reduce fines back to 50 and a hundred rupees?
You naysayers, please look at your face in the mirror first and then show the mirror to someone else. How many of us can say, by putting a hand on our heart, that I have never broken any basic traffic rule?
This is a random photo, taken today, of the street which is being repaired in Montreal in front of my daughter’s home!
I have only one item on my bucket list. To see people in India follow basic rules in public in general and traffic in particular! Jaihind!