The Wrong Side of the Law

By the Editor: Siddharth Sehgal

These days we Indians think twice before going out of our homes, not because there’s danger out there but because there may be a group of traffic police officers in the vicinity ready to accost unsuspecting riders on their way to school or office and demand a myriad of documents which most of us don’t have and that’s why there is such a heated debate around the new motor vehicle act and the exorbitant fines it brings.

I see two aspects of this motor vehicle law; the first obviously is road safety. We have an abysmal record of road accidents and every year thousands of people suffer an untimely death due to reasons such as over speeding, drunk driving, not wearing safety gears etc. and not to forget the smoke coming out of vehicles that are driven despite failing the air pollution test. In order to change this murky situation I don’t think there was any other way other than imposing huge fines of the vehicle owners. In past few weeks, people have been seen scrambling to renew their driving licenses, motor insurance and other necessary documents in order to avoid the “challan”.

The other aspect of this new law is obviously the implementation; traffic police is notorious all over the country for corruption. You don’t have to break any rule to be stopped by them, they can simply pull you over to check the papers and if any papers are found short, which is the case most of the times; people are first threatened with fines and then quietly suggested to settle the case in exchange for few bank notes. Well with advent of new motor vehicle act the bribe that used to be of few hundred rupees will balloon into thousands of rupees. For ex. if your official traffic fine comes out to be 10000 Rs, then cops can literally demand 9000 in bribe to let you go, this is just an imaginary scenario but given the money that is involved now who is to say that police will not stop people randomly in streets? The problem as always lies in the implementation, government has to ensure that people don’t get abused at the hands of the system but as the saying goes, the system is rigged against us.

I am assuming there will be some semblance of order on the road for now and we have to see how this ordinance impacts in the long run but till that time things settle to a new normal on street, Buckle up, I mean literally.

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