For the past few days my Facebook feed has been filled with articles and news items of people being heavily fined for violating traffic rules. These have mostly been poor or middle class people and sometimes the amount of the fine has been more than the cost of the vehicle or their monthly salary or both put together. This has happened due to fines of multiple violations being compounded together.
I completely support the government on the issue of imposing heavy fines on traffic violations. I also firmly believe that heavy fines are the only language that the people of India will understand. No amount of “education” will fix the problem. No amount of “Don’t be a hell mate. Always wear helmet” and “Safety on road is safe tea at home” type of ridiculous and pointless highway signboards will make any difference.
But having said all this, I think the government could have implemented this change in a more pragmatic and effective way. I think the government should have capped the maximum fine per instance to 5,000 rupees or something serious. 5,000 rupees is quite a serious amount of money for the average Indian. It is also a serious amount of money for the upper middle class. It would be a lesson well learned.
Or maybe the government could set the cap based on the cost of the vehicle or some other parameter. Maybe something like a cap of 5,000 rupees for all vehicles costing under 2 lakhs. That would take care of all two wheeler commuters. A cap of 10,000 rupees for vehicles costing under 6 lakhs. That would cover regular taxis and middle class people. No cap for everyone else. The numbers and slabs can be anything reasonable. But you get my point. The fine should pinch the violator hard, but not completely destroy him and his family for the next one or two months.
Due to the ruthless way these fines are being imposed, various state governments have already started diluting the fine amounts. Some states have deferred implementation while some others have flatly refused to implement the new fines.
This amendment of the Motor Vehicle Act is a brilliant example of a very good idea which isn’t paired with a well thought through implementation. I hope the central government makes adjustments before its good intentions are completely negated by the state governments.