Implementation of traffic rules and slapping defaulters with fines is a process as labyrinthine as regulating traffic on jammed roads, feel a section of the police and transport department officials in a tri-State border district like Chittoor.
According to police officials, “Implementation of the forthcoming rules will be next to impossible at a time when COVID-19 has thoroughly shaken the economy of the middle-class and poorer sections.”
Not having a driving licence for a two-wheeler would invite a penalty of ₹5,000 for a driver and non-holding of an insurance policy attract a fine of ₹10,000 as per the new norms.
In Chittoor district, with its 40-plus colleges offering professional courses and so many corporate junior colleges with thousands of students, who are still minors, it is common knowledge that driving without a licence is rampant. Also, 80% of the vehicle riders, mostly two-wheelers, avoid renewal of insurance policies.
“Believe it or not, 90% of the girls in the age group of 18-23 have no driving licences, but hit the roads with stylish bikes and cars. When we (police) stop them, they weep like anything, making phone calls to their dads and eventually it leads to political pressure on us,” says a police officer in a circle bordering with Tamil Nadu.
Use of influence
Recalling an old case in Kuppam, an officer says a youth was slapped a penalty of ₹5,000 for riding a motorbike (worth ₹38 lakh) without valid documents and a driving licence. As he was ‘the son of an influential sarpanch’ political pressure travelled from Kuppam to Amaravati. With the officer remaining unmoved, a superior had cleared the penalty and the bike landed at the sarpanch’s house in no time. But as fate would have it, sometime later the boy was critically hurt in a road accident. At his request, the officer visited the hospital in Bengaluru and consoled the youth, and accepted the latter’s belated apology. “When we slap penalty, we value a human life. We just want the public to become aware of the true spirit behind traffic rules,” the police officer remarks.
Many grama volunteers too come under this category. A 25-year-old volunteer in Nagari laments, “I do not have a licence and the rickety vehicle I use is not in my name. Hundreds of volunteers are like me. The new penalty of ₹5,000 for driving without a licence, is equal to my monthly honorarium, with which I run a family consisting of a crippled father and aging mother.” Volunteers could be the worst-hit under the new rules, she fears. On the other hand, some police personnel feel that the hike in penalties will only lead to increased political interference to bail out defaulters.