Nearly every third driver in the country has a fake licence and bad drivers are responsible for most of the 1.5 lakh deaths on Indian roads every year, transport minister Nitin Gadkari said on Friday.
Speaking at the 12th HT Leadership Summit, Gadkari vowed to crack down on errant drivers by installing cameras at traffic intersections and build better designed roads in a bid to lift the country’s rickety transport sector.
“We will introduce the new Road Transport and Safety Bill to replace the obsolete 1988 Motor Vehicles Act ... Once Parliament clears it, driving licenses and permits would be issued online after a stringent test. You will not go to regional transport offices for licenses,” Gadkari said at a session on India’s creaking infrastructure.
Road transport and highways and shipping minister Nitin Gadkari speaking at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit in New Delhi on Friday. (Virendra Singh Gosain/ HT photo)
“A computer will conduct the test and everyone will have to take the test ... irrespective of whether he is a politician or a celebrity,” he told a packed audience of policy-makers, industrialists and diplomats.
Gadkari later told HT that he had finalised a note for the cabinet to bring in the new law early on Friday. “Once the online system takes off, there will be no duplicate licences … no fraud,” he said, pegging the number of fake driving licenses in the country at 30%.
The minister also promised cameras at traffic intersections in cities with more than 500,000 people as part of the crackdown on bad drivers.
“There will be no escaping ... jump a red light and the notice for fines will reach your home in 24 hours. The fine will go up by three times if violators challenge the notice in court and are proven wrong,” he added.
The minister made it clear that there was not going to be any respite from paying toll but promised to make the process quicker.
By the end of the year commuters won’t have to queue up to pay road tolls and one lane on all the over 350 toll plazas across the country will have electronic toll collection facilities. This, he estimated, would save motorists up to Rs 86,000 crore wasted in queues at toll plazas.
But Gadkari conceded this was the easier part and the bigger challenge was to attract investment in the roads sector.
“Highway projects worth Rs 2.8 trillion are stuck because of regulatory clearances. Developers are not coming forward to bid for projects. I will build 30 km per day by the end of two years, up from the existing 3 km/day. My target is to ensure that the highways and shipping sectors contribute 2% of India’s GDP in two years from now,” he said.
Gadkari suggested most of the money into the sector would have to come from foreign investors because domestic capital was too expensive.
“World over the interest rate is 2-3%. In our country, it’s 13%. It’s not economically viable. So if we need to make a success story of PPP, we need to reduce our interest rate. I have requested the finance minister to consider the point and he is looking into it.”
The shipping sector is another priority for Gadkari. “In China, 20% of traffic moves through waterways as compared to an abysmal 0.5% in India. There is tremendous potential and it’s much cheaper if we transfer container traffic from roads to waterways. It will give a big boost to tourism as well,” he said.
“We are bringing the Inland Waterways Authority of India (Amendment) Bill during the winter session which will allow us to change rivers into waterways.”
The existing law allows the Centre to develop only five rivers as waterways to ferry people and cargo.
Watch: Nitin Gadkari: What you can expect from the new road safety law