Nitin Gadkari, the Man who is revolutionising India’s Infrastructure! Can he Deliver on Road Safety?

At one point, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari was almost ready to get rid of regional transport offices (RTOs)
Result for ‘CNBC TV18-BMR Advisors poll’ suggests that Modi Government’s best performing minister is Nitin Gadkari. Roads and highway ministry along with power ministry headed by Piyush Goyal always manage to attract limelight because of their good initiatives and performance.

Gadkari’s initiatives taken to improve road and port sector are worth noting. For the year 2016-17, transport ministry has set a target of awarding contracts for 25,000 km of National Highways.  Opposition party leaders and news channels controlled by ‘their’ journalists may not discuss Gadkari’s work, but earth moving and construction equipment makers would be able to show the real picture.  JCB India’s CEO and MD Vipin Sondhi agreed in his recent interview that his company has witnessed an impressive increase in orders due to government’s focus on roads sector and infrastructure.

No doubt that Union Minister Nitin Gadkari is one of Modi Government’s most personable, convincing, articulate, and intelligent ministers. But perhaps, he was forced to take a u-turn on certain issues by his Nehruvian cabinet colleague (s). Even Dr. Subramanian Swamy had said the same in July 2015 during one of his functions in Nagpur. He had pointed out that some people are not allowing Nitin Gadkari to work.

Dr. Swamy did not name these colleagues and used the term ‘top leadership’ instead. But, you don’t need to learn rocket science in order to understand that every new plan needs approval from government’s legal head. He is probably the same person who had once told an American diplomat that Hindu nationalism was an opportunistic issue for the BJP.

Who will look after road safety and vehicle regulation after getting rid of super corrupt RTO and its officials?
Almost every Indian would be able to highlight the fact that regional transport offices are the country’s most corrupt government run offices. Visit Pune RTO, and you would notice that clerks working at regional transport offices make so much of corruption money that they have hired assistants (illegally) to do all their work at the office.
Pay bribe to officials, pay commission to agents, or run from pillar to post even for getting simple learning license. This is what almost every individual who has dealt with RTO babus would suggest.
All these officials were shocked to their core in August 2014 when Union Minister Nitin Gadkari declared his intention about getting rid of RTOs in the country and replacing them with  National Road Safety and Traffic Management Authority.

He had made this announcement during an event organized in Pune by Pune Union of Working Journalists in August 2014.a

“Every road would be under CCTV surveillance to nab traffic violators.  If anyone breaks traffic rules, the person would receive notice mentioning fine amount for the same at his registered address.”  Nitin Gadkari had said that the new system will be based on traffic management models that are used in the UK. Unfortunately, the bill remains pending with cabinet according to minister’s recently made statement.
RTO officials are like Chambal’s dacoits!
Nitin Gadkari’s plan once again made it in the headlines in December last year when he compared RTO officials with Chambal’s dacoits.

He was interacting with journalists during an event organized in Delhi by Dainik Jagran newsgroup.  During his interaction, he highlighted the point that RTO officials are against computerization and transparency in the transport sector. According to the minister, such officials are influencing ministers to not to pass the pending Road Transport and Safety Bill.

“Prime Minister thinks the bill will trigger new controversy as state governments may feel that the center is reducing their rights related to regulating transport. The concerned bill is pending with the cabinet since several months now. I assure everyone that it won’t encroach upon the rights of the state governments,”- said the Union Minister for Shipping and Transport while talking about the pending bill recently.

Along with the introduction of transparent unified vehicle registration and unified driver licensing system, the pending bill will also introduce strict fines and up to seven years of imprisonment for rash drivers in case if they kill someone under their wheels.

To put it in simple words, the bill aims to improve traffic management and make drivers more accountable for their act while on the road. Such laws would make sure that individuals like Salman Khan, Aishwarya Wilton Rulans, or morons like Manoj Aggarwal who give their car to their so-called juvenile monsters, won’t get out of jail easily. It will also force car makers to offer better safety features in the vehicle to make sure that it passes stringent crash tests.
Nitin Gadkari has himself pointed out several times that 1.5 lakh deaths occur due to road accidents and three lakh people become permanently handicapped because of the same every year. Global NCAP’s recently conducted crash tests have already proved that most of the Indian cars are unsafe. Indian norms and safety standards are probably managed with the help of currency notes.

Anyway, the government has already instructed car makers to make sure that all their cars have basic safety standards and should pass the crash tests from October 2017.  Hope this deadline does not change due to pressure from lobbyists.
After cabinet’s approval, it needs to pass in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha as well. I am doubtful if this would happen during Modi Government’s term or not, unless, the government finds another way around to introduce these much-needed reforms quickly. Abolishing regional transport offices would definitely prove to be a rabbit in the hat for NDA, which is often accused of presenting several of Congress party’s achievements and schemes as its own.


Nitten Gokhaley
(A consultant journalist by profession with over five years of experience. He works on business, crime, Bollywood, and political stories. The Author holds a BA degree and Diploma in Cyber Law. Hates news traders and leftist journalists who twist the truth to misguide viewers and to satisfy their political masters.