August 11, 2019

Motor Vehicle Bill Curtails States’ Powers, Favours Corporates

THE CPI(M) vehemently opposed the Motor Vehicle (Amendment) Bill, 2019 in Parliament. The party said that the government, under the garb of enhanced road safety, is handing over the entire road transport sector to corporates and directly encroaching upon the powers of state governments.

In Lok Sabha, P R Natarajan said five amendments are directly encroaching upon the powers of the states and will have serious impact on the states’ revenue, functioning of state transport undertakings and motor vehicles departments. It will also adversely impact the job security of the staff of state transport undertakings and other government departments, besides imposing severe drawbacks on providing transport facilities to rural and hilly areas, which is now being done by state transport undertakings without a profit motive. The insertion of new section 211 A to clause 89 is intended to empower the central government to levy and collect fees and taxes through any office, authority, body or agency owned or controlled by the central government in a particular manner. That will not only be an encroaching operation on the exclusive power of the state governments but will also affect the states’ revenue. The reasons for entrusting the work of collecting fees and taxes to a body is not explained in the Bill. The object of the proposed amendment, that is “for facilitating the public”, could be effectively carried out only by the officers of the State Motor Vehicle Department, in accordance with the provisions of the principal Act. Hence, the insertion of the new section 211 A has to be deleted. The proposed amendment to clause 91 encroaches on the rights of the state transport corporations. Under this section, the central government shall have the power to delegate any power or functions that have been conferred upon it by the Act to any public servant or public authority and authorise such public servants or public authority to discharge any of its powers, functions and duties under this Act. Such excess delegation of powers to private persons or a group of persons in the name of any public servant or public authority is not only against the Constitution of India but also provides a gateway for private bodies in operation of public services which is not in tune with the policy of any government. In order to avoid the entry of private bodies, please delete Sections 215 A, B and C. Clause 29 introduces a new provision, Section 66A, enabling the central government to develop a comprehensive national transportation policy for facilitating barrier free movement of freight across the states, liberalising public transport including city taxi permit systems. Another new provision, Section 88A, has been introduced by Clause 33 of the Bill, empowering the central government to make schemes for inter-state transportation of goods and passengers and also liberalising the prevailing permit system. The proposed amendment, Clauses 29 and 33, implies that the powers under these sections can be exercised only by the central government not just in the context of inter-state transportation. It will also affect the interests of state transport undertakings. The policy of the present Bill with regard to the inter-state agreements will be a retrograde step to the provisions of Section 20 of the Road Transportation Corporation Act, 1950. This will result in the powers of the states to control and regulate the movement of public service vehicles by grant of permit and levy of taxes and fees, being taken away by the central government. This would directly impact transport services provided by state transport undertakings to the majority of the population of Tamil Nadu, covering rural, urban, hilly and remote areas. The nationalisation policy of the state would be overrun by the proposed clauses. By introducing Clause 18, the revenue generated through registration-related fees would be taken away by the dealers who would logically like to register the vehicles without any physical inspection and thus leading to loss of revenue to the states as well as compromising road safety. “So, I request the minister to withdraw all the amendments,” Natarajan said.

In Rajya Sabha, Elamaram Kareem said road accidents and related issues are of very serious concern. Sincere and suitable steps should be taken to bring down the number of accidents. In the name of accidents, the entire road transport sector is being handed over to corporates. The powers of the state governments are, slowly and slowly, being encroached upon. Drivers alone cannot be blamed for accidents. Only ten per cent of the accidents happen because of the fault of drivers. Forty million workers are engaged in road transport sector and it is not being considered that the workers are the integral part of an industry. Road transport corporations, where the accident rate is less, are not conducting service for making profits. It is for serving the people but the private operators are operating vehicle for making money, for generating profit. The road transport corporations will vanish from our country if the amendments are brought in. The transport sector is going to be handed over to public-private partnership model and private entrepreneurship. Can accidents be reduced by introducing cab aggregators? The MSME sector producing spares would be closed and the roadside workshops would be shut. Thousands and thousands of workers will be thrown out of employment. The government should make a comprehensive approach to reduce accidents. Traffic rules and road safety should be included in the curriculum from fifth standard to twelfth standard in the central and state syllabus to generate awareness.

However, despite opposition from the CPI(M) and other parties, the government used its numerical strength to ensure the passage of the Bill, which seeks to amend the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.