Sikh organisation to oppose move
The Delhi government's decision to enforce wearing of helmets by women driving or riding pillion on a two-wheeler could snowball into a controversy again.
While the government is exploring ways to make necessary changes in rules to make helmets compulsory for women, leaders of Sikh organisations said they would oppose any such move tooth and nail.
"Wearing any headgear by women is prohibited in our religion, even if it is a helmet. We'll oppose any such move of the government," Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Prabhandak Committee president Pramajit Singh Sarna said.
While traffic experts believe fatalities would come down drastically if women drivers and riders start wearing helmets, Sarna believes otherwise.
"It has been more than 50 years since two-wheelers started plying in our country. I have not heard of women falling off scooters and dying because they were not wearing helmets," Sarna said.
"I think these organisations should be convinced by showing them statistics," International road Federation chairman KK Kapila said.
The proposal to make helmets mandatory for women had turned into a major controversy in the late 1990s too.
While the Central Motor Vehicles Act had made it compulsory for anyone riding a two-wheeler to wear a protection on head, exception only made to Sikh men wearing turbans, the controversy forced Delhi government to take exception and let women drive or pillion ride wheeler helmets.
"There were fewer vehicles on roads when our government took this decision. But the number has grown exponentially now. Rules should be changed accordingly," said former Delhi CM Madan Lal Khurana.
It is only Delhi where women drivers and riders are exempt from this rule. In cities such as Kolkata, Patna, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram, anyone pillion riding on a two-wheeler -man or woman - has to wear a helmet. In other cities like Mumbai, Lucknow, Bengaluru and Bhopal, helmet is not mandatory for pillion riders.
While the situation in Delhi has continued since almost a decade, a sudden increase in fatalities among two-wheeler riders, especially women, has forced traffic experts as well as individuals to question the relevance of the exemption.
"I was making a film on women's safety when I realised how vulnerable women were on two-wheelers. It made me start a campaign and I sent helmets to everyone in the power corridor to think and make necessary changes," said Ulhas PR, a filmmaker, who is running a sustained campaign to make it helmets mandatory for women.
Senior traffic police officers believe helmets should be mandatory for everyone.
"The L-G had recently sought our view on this and we believe helmets should be made mandatory for everyone. The issue had also cropped up in a meeting with the Motor Vehicles Act Committee,” Joint CP (traffic) Satyendra Garg said.