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TO WEAR OR NOT TO WEAR HELMET CAN STATE GOVT PLEASE CLEAR ITS STAND?

January 28, 2020 06:38 AM

COURTESY MIRROR JAN 28

TO WEAR OR NOT TO WEAR HELMET
CAN STATE GOVT PLEASE CLEAR ITS STAND?
As Gujarat govt goes back on its move making it optional for two-wheeler riders to wear helmets in municipal areas, citizens ask how they can trust a government that fails to stand by its word
Team AM | amfeedback@timesgroup.in
TWEETS @ahmedabadmirror

The Gujarat government’s repeated flip-flop over the helmet rule has left two-wheeler riders in the State extremely dizzy. To wear or not to wear: that’s the big question plaguing citizens as the government on Monday told Gujarat High Court that it never issued any notification, order or regulation making helmets optional for twowheeler riders. The government said this in response to a PIL challenging its December announcement that helmets were optional for twowheeler riders in municipal areas in the State. “Why can’t the government make up its mind? They are ready to play with people’s lives for votebank politics. Just when people had started following traffic rules, they decided to remove the helmet rule. And now it is claiming that they had never removed the ban. Why is the government treating us like fools?” asked Shivani Patel, a 25-year-old working professional.

MBA student Madhav Barot (21) says, “The government is creating a whole lot of confusion among people with its ever-changing stand. Everyone knows helmet is necessary from a safety point of view. People had begun wearing helmets when the rule was made mandatory. Then, it was removed. Now, the government says it never said anything of the sort. People will no longer trust this government if it fails to stand by its word.”


Mukesh Solanki, a 20-year-old student, said, “It’s time that government made its stand clear on such a sensitive issue. It says one thing today, and another thing the next day. The question is what should we, as citizens, believe as the government might wash its hands off its own rules and decisions any time to save its behind.”

Guj first to implement new Act

Interestingly, Gujarat was among the first states in the country to reduce the fines of traffic violations stipulated by the new Motor Vehicles Act in September this year. Before the implementation of the amended Motor Vehicles Act on November 1, the fine for not wearing the helmet was Rs 100. The state government introduced the new Act on September 16 and fixed the fine for helmetless riders at Rs 500. After initial delay, the Act was finally implemented in November.

At the time, the government had said the rule was for the safety of citizens on roads. Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said, “In places like Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata, people ensure they do not drive a scooter without helmet. That is necessary here as is also implementation of the new traffic rules. So, we decided to reduce the fine than what was suggested by central government.”

The government was so ‘concerned’ for the safety of citizens that Transport minister R C Faldu had announced, “We have taken decision that two-wheeler dealers shall give ISI-standard helmets to customers for free. We will issue a circular and every dealer will have to adhere to it.”

Cracking down on two-wheeler riders without helmets, Ahmedabad police alone registered a 6,000 per cent increase in fines in November. From penalty collection of Rs 2.07 lakh from helmetless drivers in October, the traffic department collected Rs 1.24 crore in November from violators. This is also the highest penalty collected in any month in 2019. The number of offenders caught riding without the safety headgear also witnessed a 1,100 per cent rise from 2,058 in October to 24,883 in November.

Meanwhile, the helmet rule prompted widespread opposition from Gujaratis who have opposed the helmet rule since 2005. The most vocal were citizens of Rajkot, CM Vijay Rupani’s hometown.

The “public sentiment” promoted the Cabinet to debate on the issue. And while, the Cabinet was divided in two: one in favour of the decision, and the others against it; the government finally decided to roll back the decision.

The CM on December 4 announced: “This is a people-centric decision taken by Gujarat government. Wearing helmet in urban areas will not be compulsory. Helmet is not compulsory in the municipality and municipal corporation areas. It is compulsory on highways and on approach roads.”

Based on the media statement, officer on special duty for Transport department issued a circular on December 5 to all RTO and ARTO to suspend implementation of helmet rule.

No notification, order: govt

One Sanjeev Bhargav filed a PIL stating he was aggrieved by “wilful, negligent, and neglectful attitude/acts/ omissions of the state government” by making helmets optional and sought that the court declare the decision “illegal and unconstitutional”. “The Gujarat cabinet decision to make helmets temporarily optional for two-wheeler riders in all municipal areas in the state is contrary to the provisions of the recently amended MV Act, 2019,” the PIL said.

In its submission before the division bench of Chief Justice Vikram Natha and Justice AJ Shastri on Monday, government pleader Manisha Lavkumar said, “There is no notification, order, or regulation making helmets optional, and added helmets had been made mandatory even for pillion riders”.

Congress leader Dr Manish Doshi said, “The government is suffering from policy paralysis. They implement something and then take a Uturn. In helmet issue, they first collected crores of rupees as fine. Then fearing a backlash in forthcoming election, they rolled back on the decision. The government has major deficiency of decisiveness.

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