Road rage: Are we paying the price for a decision not taken?


Two tragic accidents, in less than two days, have snatched away the lives of four innocent people. On late Saturday night, two police constables on nakabandi duty along the Margao-Colva road were killed by a speeding car that rammed into them. In the second accident at Gandhinagar, Raia, a speeding car dashed a two-wheeler killing the 35-year-old rider and his wife flinging them off the road.

These are horrific and fatal accidents caused due to rash and negligent driving. In split seconds, two young police constables who were religiously doing their night duty along the roadside became victims of someone’s car rage. One of the constables who died is survived by his wife and two young children, while the other constable's wife is expecting their first child. The Raia couple has a 10-year-old daughter waiting for them back home.

Locals at the sites of both accidents alleged that the drivers of the speeding cars were intoxicated. The question is, has the State failed to do justice to road violators by indefinitely deferring implementation of the new Motor Vehicles Act?

The new Act came into force on September 1, 2019, across India, prescribing stringent fines, penalties and jail terms for traffic violators. In Goa, the thinking of our lawmakers has been surprisingly different. A section of ministers in the Goa cabinet not only managed to suppress implementation of the new rules but succeeded in deferring it for over two years to protect political interests, against the understanding that the hefty fines could result in a public backlash.

In a cabinet meeting held in January 2021, two cabinet ministers opposed implementation on the pretext of poor road conditions, even overriding the transport minister's argument that the new rules are a means to control violations. A few months later, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant announced that the new rules are being kept on hold because of the pandemic situation and the existing financial burden on people.

For rash and negligent driving, the new traffic rules prescribe fines between Rs 1,000 and Rs 5,000 and/or six months to 1-year in prison besides seizure of license. Stringent rules could be the only deterrent in States like Goa where road policing is patchy, inconsistent and entangled in corruption, and where enforcement considers fining helmetless riders as the only way to control road fatalities.  

The question before us is about securing lives and disciplining violators. We can't understand why the government and a section of its selfish-minded ministers are trying to shield irresponsible elements in society that do not respect and value lives. If pandemic and the financial burden is offered as an excuse to 'quarantine' the new laws, let us remind the CM and a few of his voter-centric ministers that it is only the more affluent and those with deep pockets who can afford to be rash with their flashy four-wheelers. The victims are the common citizens who rely on their two-wheelers to take them home. So, who is the government shielding? By keeping the implementation of the new Motor Vehicles Act in abeyance, a grave injustice is done to the righteous law-abiding citizens of Goa. There is blood on the hands of those who are shielding lawbreakers.

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