Will Uddhav bite the bullet on Motor Vehicles Act?
Over a fortnight into office, all eyes are on the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government's much-anticipated stand on the implementation of the contentious Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019, according to highly placed sources.
The previous Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-Shiv Sena regime had stayed enforcement of the amended MVA rules following an uproar from all over the country on the exorbitant fines/penalties stipulated.
The move, implemented by the former Sena Transport minister Diwakar Raote had jolted its ally (BJP) both in the state and the Centre, especially Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari who faced embarrassment in his home state.
A senior transport department official said that "the government's view is the recommended fines/penalties are very steep and could breed rampant corruption on the roads".
"The fines need to be rationalized if these are to be made acceptable and enforceable by the field staff and officers, or it can backfire. We are studying the formulae adopted by other states, like Gujarat, before finalizing a proposal here," said the official, requesting anonymity.
He pointed out that so far, barely eight states in India have implemented it and some have watered down the fines/penalties by 80-90 per cent.
When (former minister) Raote had announced the stay on the Act on September 11, it was unanimously welcomed and even the ruling BJP kept mum since elections were round the corner (October 21).
The former BJP leader Kishore Tiwari, now an Advisor to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, had warned that the hefty fines/penalties had created panic and had the potential to spur suicides if forced upon the people.
Barely hours after that statement created havoc in political circles, Raote had stayed the implementation of the new Act in Maharashtra till further orders, while referring the law to the law department for its opinion.
"The MVA government's stand remains unchanged on the Act's rules. The fines are required to be drastically slashed, the harassment of motorists, especially women on two-wheelers in the Tier-II and III cities and towns, must end. We are hopeful that a rational version of the Act will be made applicable in the state," Tiwari told IANS.
The other ruling allies, Nationalist Congress Party and Congress whose stand on the issue of high fines/penalties is already known, said whatever decision is taken now will be after joint consultation among the MVA partners.
"The matter will be discussed by the MVA ministers, a consensus will be evolved and only then it will be implemented. Heavy fines/penalties are a matter of concern and definitely merit a rethink," NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik told IANS.
"Our stand is also clear. We are not in favour of the Act in its present form and shall request the government to revise the stiff fines/penalties. Of course, the final decision will be taken unanimously after consultations among the three partners," state Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant told IANS.
An official said that at present (Shiv Senas's) senior Minister Subhash Desai has been allocated the Transport portfolio, but there could be changes after a reshuffled expected after the winter session of Maharashtra Legislature later this month.
Despite attempts by IANS, both minister Desai and Principal Secretary (Transport) Ashish Kumar Singh were not available for their comment.IANS