Designing fitness rules for a vehicle’s road worthiness is a well-intentioned, if ambitious, idea for India. The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways must know that to slap India’s burgeoning traffic into any semblance of order and make it operate within the law needs as much education and awareness, as stricter norms. The idea of a check every two years for vehicles more than three years old may prove to be a good attempt at streamlining traffic as well as control emission levels. At the same time, fudging fitness test results may well become a lucrative avenue for corruption, notwithstanding ministerial threats of de-licensing and employing automated systems.
There’s no doubt that the traffic situation in India’s cities is a growing nightmare. Juxtaposed with the growing number of new cars is the old fleet of public transport vehicles and the three-wheelers used for transporting supplies, which slow traffic. In Delhi itself, where the Union Ministry resides, transport buses race each other, making the city’s roads highly unsafe for pedestrians and motorists. Dealing with the mechanical fitness of such vehicles is only one of the many steps that the ministry must push through to improve the driving experience in the country. The road-worthiness of drivers is as important as that of the vehicles they drive. It is no secret that the issuance of driving licences, especially of public transport drivers, trucks and taxis, is an area of concern. India could halve its unconscionably high toll of road deaths if there is some form of vigilance at the road transport offices that issue licences. Making drivers road-worthy is a task that the ministry must address in all seriousness.
Maintenance of roads, traffic management and ensuring adherence to existing traffic laws are challenges that ministries must work together to address. Many traffic and road rules in India are broken with impunity. In this scenario, the desire to upgrade the quality of vehicles is all very well, but there is an equally compelling need to have a multi-pronged strategy for India’s traffic to have standards that are anywhere near world class.