Tax and fines can enrich Road Safety Fund
Q & A

The recent 9th IRF conclave recommends the creation of a Road Safety Fund at the central and state level. How tough is this going to be?

It won’t be tough at all. We need to utilize a portion of toll and a part of cess levy on petrol and diesel—as a separate tax for Road Safety Fund. I recommend a substantial percentage of the road challan money to be put in the Road Safety Fund. This reserve can be enhanced by deployment of ITS (information & technology services) in the dedicated corridors in a gradual manner on PPP (public-private partnership) basis, to provide the ITS infrastructure for operation and maintenance. PPP operators can be paid 50-60% of the total cost. The balance can be recovered by sharing of fine money, which is a sovereign function and cannot be passed to any operator. A part of it can be paid as maintenance and management charges while the other part will go to the Road Safety Fund along with a part of registration fee of vehicle.

Similarly, a part of insurance premium can be utilized for Road Safety Fund as insurance companies have to substantially pay out on account of accidents. Enhanced Road Safety will help them to reduce these payouts. Besides, we can go for contributions from corporates under their CSR, which also entitles them to 100% tax rebate.

How does IRF foresee a mechanism for achieving synergy among all the stakeholders?

IRF foresees that to synergise energies, we need to have a Nodal Officer for Road Safety in every state. He should be a person of Additional Chief Secretary rank to command respect and authority over his junior colleagues like Secretary PWD, the D-G of Police, the States’ Transport Secretaries, D-G Health Services, the Secretary and Secretary, Urban Development looking after Municipality and Cantonment Board. They all will have to work in perfect synergy, to an agreed approved closely monitored programme covering the five pillars of UN Decade of Action Plan. A percentage of road challan money and vehicle registration fee can go to the fund.

How can we ensure that urban and non-urban roads adopt modern technologies to make the roads safer for the users say in next 5 to 10 years?

As far as urban roads are concerned, application of ITS which, inter alia includes: cameras at traffic lights, cameras catching number plates of violators, checking of lane driving and other vulnerable checks such as changing lanes at wrong places and speed-control devices connected to a central monitor to help in identifying the traffic violators, who should be fined. The above provision of ITS will be done under PPP to speed up the process. The PPP operator will install and manage the system against the payment of 50-60% of the total cost outlay, the balance money to be collected towards management & maintenance charges being met from a part of fine money collected by the government. This way, we will be able to cover the urban roads over a period of next five to 10 years.

For non-urban roads, these would have to be provided with appropriate technology by the concessionaires and BOT (build, operate, transfer) operators. As far as BOT projects are concerned, for the extra cost incurred, such concessionaires can be compensated by permitting them tolling rights for a defined additional time-frame. As far as nonurban roads developed by the government are concerned, these will have to be under the budgetary provisions over a long period. However, it is recommended that every effort should be made to take these up as PPP with major compensation from the budget and balance small component through collection of fine in the case of the urban roads. A part of the fine will go to the operator, while the rest will go to Road Safety Fund. The PPP operator will invariably be responsible for provisioning of ITS facility and its maintenance.

The recommendations speak of cycle manufacturing to be brought under standard regime with retro reflective tapes duly fitted on all bicycles manufactured in the country. Can we know more on this?

Regarding the recommendations of cycle manufacturing to be brought under standard regime, we need to strengthen the bicycle standards, though are covered under BIS. Also, the poor cyclist must be visible while riding during dark hours. The present reflectors are not good at all; therefore there is an inescapable necessity of providing retro-reflective tapes. White in front, yellow on the sides and red at the back. We have advocated with the government to make it mandatory so that all bicycles produced by the manufacturers are provided with the retro-reflective tapes at the appropriate positions with reflectivity and quality standards conforming to AIS:090.

How can First Response Care be improved?

We need to first train people. We are trying to cover all HMV (heavy motor vehicle) drivers over a period of time. These drivers regularly come to traffic training institutes for undergoing two-day refresher courses. We now propose to have this done on an additional day to train them in First Responder Course. An amendment has been sought in the Motor Vehicle Act to make this training mandatory for HMV drivers. To carry out this programme, we are trying to create a number of trainers. We have sought list of OTA s (operational theatre assistants) and junior commissioned officers (nursing) from the armed forces to make them trainers to undertake these programmes since the country would need a very large number of such trained people to carry out this exercise.

Bettering capacity building on a large scale for pre-hospital trauma care facilities by training paramedics and deploying them in all categories of hospitals and primary health centres reads an excellent recommendation. How did the idea evolve?

To further enhance the scope of Theatre assistants and nurses from armed forces can be used as trainers in trauma care. pre-hospital trauma care facilities, we propose to have the OTA s for Air Force and Navy as well as their equivalent of JCO nursing trained to be moved on retirement to man trauma-care facilities in primary health centres and government hospitals across the country. This way, these officials who retire at an early age can be usefully used to build trauma- care facilities in the country.

How vitally can the 9th IRF conference recommendations influence the track of the Road Transport and Safety Bill that is doing its rounds now?

I am confident that our recommendation regarding Road Transport and Safety Bill will find support from various political parties across the spectrum. The intended law is above politics; it’s for the cause of saving human lives. If any political party opposes it, we would not hesitate to expose them, while sticking to our non-political stand as usual.

On taking a broad view at the points that came up for discussion at the two-day meet, what are the major problems facing India when it comes to road safety?

Badly compromised road geometrics because of problems of land acquisition is one problem. Then, lack of appropriate road safety features, dubious issuance of driving licence, lack of trauma care facilities, poor enforcement of law and below-par public awareness. It’s time we should moved to the ITS regime. Also, our cinema halls should show 2-3 minutes of documentaries on road safety before each screening. Further, Members of Parliament and MLAs must use their local development funds to improve road safety in their constituencies. The private sector, too, can contribute substantially.