NEW DELHI – Public transport was disrupted in the Indian capital and its adjoining areas on Thursday as trucks, cabs, and auto-rickshaws stayed off the road in a strike against the steep hikes in traffic fines imposed by the central government recently.
The government in its bid to curb road accidents and bring order to chaotic traffic made amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act and increased by manifold fines for traffic offenses.
The act regulates all aspects of road transport vehicles in the country. The increased penalty charge for traffic violations has affected low-income drivers the most.
“I used to start my day with an empty pocket, but now I will have to have a minimum of 1,000 rupees ($14) to pay for the fine before I start,” Veer Singh – an auto-rickshaw driver, who had parked his vehicle on the roadside in support of the strike, told EFE.
“But people like me make only about 600 to 800 rupees a day,’’ he said.
The taxi and public transport unions demand a complete withdrawal of the amendments that can charge drivers thousands of rupees for a traffic violation.
The amended penalty for driving without a license is 5000 rupees, up from the earlier fine of 500 rupees while drunken driving could force you to pay 10,000 rupees, compared to the earlier 2000 rupees.
Deepak Sachdeva from All India Transporters Welfare Association told EFE that “the changes have given the traffic police more opportunities for corruption.”
“We will go on an indefinite strike if the government doesn’t listen to us,” he said.
The amended act, passed in early August by Indian parliament, was implemented across the country from Sept. 1. However, it has met with a mixed response from various state governments.
Some states – such as West Bengal and Rajasthan – refused to implement the amendment arguing that the penalties were too high for a common man.
The western state of Gujarat has implemented the act after partially reducing the penalties. Other states like the southern Karnataka and Kerala also plan to implement the act on a revised rate.
Meanwhile, the disruption of the transport network caused several schools and colleges in the capital and its suburbs to be closed for the day.
Major airlines including Indigo and Air Asia tweeted about the inconvenience in transport, notifying their passengers to make the required arrangements.