New Delhi: Marking the first death anniversary of Shri Gopinath Munde, the Union Cabinet Minister who was killed in a road accident last year, road safety NGOs and affected families from across India have come together to demand strengthening of the road safety bill drafted by the Government. The group of NGOs has launched an online campaign, www.roadsafetyatrisk.in, to gather public support for strengthening the Bill. The website allows users to send a letter to Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi requesting his intervention in the matter.
“We urge the Honourable Prime Minister to ensure that there is no compromise in the Bill. Enough lives have been lost and the safety of road users must be kept paramount. This is the only way to honour the deaths of Shri Gopinath Munde and lakhs of common people who have lost their lives to this preventable epidemic”, says Piyush Tewari, who founded the SaveLIFE Foundation after the death of a young family member in a road accident in 2008.
Shri Gopinath Munde was killed on the morning of June 3rd, 2014 when his car crashed with another on the intersection of Aurobindo Marg and Lodhi Road in New Delhi. His death sparked a major national debate on road safety in India, prompting the Union Transport Minister Shri Nitin Gadkari to announce on June 5th, 2014 that a new stringent road safety law will be brought to replace the Motor Vehicles Act “within one month”. The move was welcomed by road safety activists and NGOs as the proposal to upgrade the Motor Vehicles Act is pending since 2001. According to the National Crime Records Bureau figures, more than 15 lakh people have been killed in road accidents in India since the proposal was first mooted in 2001.
The first draft of the Road Transport and Safety Bill was released for public comments on September 13th last year. Since then, three more versions have been released by the Ministry. In the latest version of the Bill available on the Ministry’s website, statutes to hold road contractors, automobile manufactures, transporters and rash drivers accountable have been watered-down. The independence of the proposed road safety authority too has been curtailed. The Government has also changed its position on the timing of the introduction of the Bill. In a statement made in Parliament on February 26th, 2015, on the timing of the proposed Bill, the Union Minister of State for Road Transport and Highways, Shri P Radhakrishnan, stated, “No definite timeframe can be given”.