Delhiites may face a tough time commuting on Thursday as autorickshaw drivers across the city have called a one-day strike to protest against the new Road Transport and Safety Bill 2014. The fines proposed in the new bill have been increased from Rs 100 — as charged under the Motor Vehicle Act 1988 — to up to Rs 5,000.
“We are expecting a 100% shutdown tomorrow. It will be a silent protest to send out the message to the government that the new bill is against the poor drivers. How will a poor man, who earns less than Rs 500 a day, pay Rs 2,500 as fines for traffic violations? We know this will cause inconvenience to commuters and it will also affect a day’s earning for us but we are doing this for the greater good of the drivers,” said Sobran Singh from the Bharatiya Tipahiya Chalak Sangh.
Apart from mobilising autorickshaw unions across the Capital, the organisers personally visited auto stands to include individual drivers. Posters have been put up around stands and radio announcements have been circulated to ensure maximum participation.
There are around 15 auto rickshaw unions and around 1 lakh registered auto rickshaws plying in the Capital. The Delhi government, however, said the strike would have no effect on the transport sector and the usual number of Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) buses will ply the roads.
According to the latest draft of the bill, offences like speeding will attract a fine of Rs 1,000, dangerous driving will have a fine of Rs 2,500 and using vehicle without registration papers will attract a fine up to Rs 3,000 along with vehicles being impounded for two months.
The existing fines for these offences are Rs 400, Rs 100 and Rs 500, respectively. The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, through the bill, has also proposed a points system for traffic violations. Penalty points accumulated by a driver would remain on record for three years, and accrual of 12 points would lead to the suspension of licence for one year. This is over and above the fines and jail terms proposed in the bill. According to the unions, all passenger and goods traffic, both public and private, will participate in the strike. The unions said the bill is against the interests of road transport workers, private transport owners, public sector undertakings, passengers and the public in general. Responding to the nationwide strike, road safety organisations and families of accident victims came forward to appeal to the government to not compromise on the safety of road users.
“We have the worst road safety record in the world and instead of welcoming the new bill all the transporters can think of is going for a strike. Unless we join hands to reduce the number of road accidents the fatalities on the road will not come down,” said Commodore Ranbir Talwar, the executive director of the Indian Head Injury Foundation.