A country wide strike by crores of road transport workers against the Road Transport and Safety Bill 2014 took place on April 30, 2015. Between 6 am and 6 pm, on that day, in all states of the Indian union, autos, buses — both private and public, and also goods transporters struck work in protest against the Bill which is totally against their interests. The strike was called by the Central Trade Unions, as well as all the unions of transport workers. These unions have been agitating against the draconian provisions in the Bill, ever since it was introduced in parliament in August 2014. The strike was called after the workers saw that the government was unwilling to heed their concerns and was determined to go ahead with trying to pass the bill in the ongoing budget session of parliament.
The Bill – Road Transport and Safety Bill 2014 – is intended to replace the existing Motor Vehicles Act 1988. The Bill according to its aims and objectives is “to reduce the road accidents and fatalities, to boost the GDP growth and to create lakhs of employment to youth”. This is the kind of demagogic propaganda that the bourgeoisie is continuously carrying out to cover up the savage attacks on the working people.
The Bill must be seen in the light of the huge increase in road transport in our country — private transport, public passenger transport, and freight transport, in the past 27 years. The big vehicle manufacturers, as well as the insurance agencies see scope for increasing their profits through such a bill.
According to the provisions of the Bill, there will be a central agency which will regulate all aspects of the use of the highways and roads of our country. It will determine at what age vehicles will be declared unfit for use, so that the vehicle owner is forced to purchase a new vehicle. This is directly in the interests of the manufacturers of vehicles, to boost their sales.
Vehicle manufacturers will start registration of vehicles. The bourgeoisie sees great opportunity to make private profits through the issuing of driving licenses. Driving schools will have the power to carry out tests and grant licenses. Similarly vehicle repair shops which are connected with the manufacturers will have the right to certify vehicles for road fitness. These two measures will potentially attack the livelihood of the small driving schools, and those who do not go to driving schools, the small repair shops and those who repair their own vehicles, as well as small parts shops.
Penalties will be imposed on cyclists and motor cyclists for not using helmets of standard use, and for people in larger vehicles not using seat belts.
Violations will draw fines that have been increased manifold. The minimum fine for any offence is Rs 2,500 and it increases on repeat offences. The maximum penalty is Rs 3 lakh and imprisonment of 7 years in the case of death of a child.
The proposed Bill includes a scoring system for violations depending on the kind of violation, and if a violator gets 12 points, there license is suspended for one year. A repeat offence means cancellation of the license for 5 years.
The bill is so draconian that it increases the powers of the police forces to penalize any person on the highway for both real and imaginary offences. It creates a special police force under Central authority for the purpose of its implementation. One can imagine that with the great increase in fines, coupled with the draconian point system of offences, the police forces will extract maximum from the drivers of vehicles in the form of corruption.
In the name of regulating this sector to ensure safety, the real aim is to extract the maximum for finance capital.
The road transport industry is a massive and growing sector of the economy which ensures livelihood of over 4 crore people. It includes the building and maintenance of the roads and highways and the signaling systems.
Finance capital is eyeing this huge sector to increase its profits. Already, insurance companies make huge monies from the road transport industry, by bleeding the owners of vehicles. Private and foreign insurance companies are seeing huge profits in this sector. Many of the draconian provisions of the Bill, including the points system and the huge fines, are aimed at ensuring this. The Bill explicitly ensures that the insurance companies can recover monies from the drivers and vehicle owners in cases of accidents and violations. All the talk of GDP growth, and safety is aimed at covering up this reality — that the aim of the Bill is to ensure that increased and guaranteed profits are made by the biggest monopolies in this sector, and by the insurance companies, at the cost of the toiling masses.
The penalties incorporated in the Road transport and Safety Bill have been modeled after systems in place in Singapore, and North America. They reflect the demand of finance capital worldwide to open up this sector for their plunder.
In the coming period, it is necessary to expose even more thoroughly how the true aim of the bill is not to ensure safety and efficiency of transport for the people, but to maximize the profits of finance capital.