Lack of awareness among locals and alleged political interference have led to fizzling out of the helmet rule for the pillion riders within the main city.
The Dehradun police have slapped around 3000 penalties on the violators during the past two months. However, most of them have been on the city outskirts, as a local lawmaker had allegedly protested against the move within the city.
The state government had made helmet compulsory for pillion riders on May 20. According to the rule, the first-time offenders are slapped with a fine of Rs 100 and the second-time ones Rs 300, followed by suspension of the driving licence under the Motor Vehicles Act. The move came following the Supreme Court directive to the Uttarakhand government in this regard.
However, soon after the rule was enforced, Rajpur legislator Rajkumar (who goes by his first name), approached chief minister Harish Rawat and demanded its rollback in the main city area.
“I requested him to give relaxation (for the double helmet norm) within 10 km radius of the main city as it is unlikely accidents will take place amid traffic jams in the main city,” he said, adding that ‘double helmets’ will “cause inconvenience to senior citizens, children and women”.
Rajkumar also claimed that he had “managed to get the compliance lifted for the main city”, eliciting a sharp criticism from a section of residents.
Mahesh Bhandari, president of Doon Residents’ Welfare Front - an umbrella body of resident welfare associations - said that it was unfortunate that public representatives were openly encouraging flouting of norms meant for riders’ safety.
“Such kind of a vote bank politics (to appease the public) is deplorable. Accidents can take place anywhere so there shouldn’t be any exemption on the basis of distance from the main city,” he said, calling for awareness drives to encourage locals for adopting pillion helmets.
According to the Dehradun police, around 40 deaths have been reported in Dehradun in the past two years where two-wheeler riders were not wearing helmets. A total of 418 people lost their lives in road accidents in Dehradun in the past three years.
When contacted, Dehradun superintendent of police (SSP) Sadanand Date said that the police was looking at carrying out a “phase-wise” implementation but that a complete enforcement of the double helmet norm will take time.
“We have held special drives in the outer areas of the city like Premnagar, Clement Town and Rajpur where many educational institutes/colleges are located, which have yielded good results. However, it will take time to ensure a complete enforcement of helmets for pillion riders in the entire city. Also, we need the support of district administration and regional transport office to ensure full compliance (for double helmets),” Date told HT.
On being queried over the alleged political intervention in the compliance of the norm, Surendra Kumar, media in charge of chief minister Harish Rawat, said that the government was currently studying the matter to find out if any appropriate changes can be brought about in the rule. “We respect the legislator’s suggestion and are reviewing it at present. However, no (intervening) instructions have been issued to the police so far and they are free to pursue their duty,” Kumar claimed.