Onam relief from hiked traffic fines
Kerala’s government has decided to keep in abeyance the recent hike in traffic fines during the ongoing Onam season following vehement resistance from both the ruling and Opposition parties.
A meeting chaired by chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Sunday decided to temporarily halt implementing the amended Motor Vehicles Act, enacted by the Centre, amid complaints that most people found the heavy fines unaffordable.
The new fines — some of them representing a tenfold hike —- came into force on September 1, and Kerala had promptly implemented them from that date despite the CPM having opposed the amendment in Parliament. The new penalties will now be in the freezer till Onam ends on September 13.
What happens after that remains unclear. Transport minister A.K. Saseendran told reporters on Monday the state would seek legal opinion and approach the Centre seeking relief from the hefty fines.
“A state can do little since it’s a central act. We are trying to work out an amicable solution,” he said.
Saseendran explained that the Onam breather had been offered because vehicular traffic skyrockets during the festive season, with people going out shopping.
Several non-BJP states such as Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan have not yet implemented the new fines.
CPM state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan and Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala slammed the Centre for burdening the common people with such heavy fines and for failing to consult the states beforehand.
“By enacting laws that the states find difficult to implement, the Centre is destroying the federal structure,” Balakrishnan said.
He said the CPM had warned the state government that imposing these heavy fines could create law-and-order problems and encourage corruption and harassment.
“Those getting caught for violations under the new penalty regime simply refuse to pay up and argue with the police, creating an atmosphere of hostility,” Balakrishnan said.
“Another consequence is that such huge fines open up an avenue of corruption. If the fine is Rs 20,000, the official supposed to implement the law could strike a deal for about Rs 5,000. Now, whose pocket would this money end up in?”
Chennithala challenged Balakrishnan to get the Left government to find a permanent solution if he really meant what he said.
While driving without a licence earlier fetched a penalty of Rs 500, violators would now have to shell out Rs 5,000. The fines have similarly been raised tenfold for seat-belt violations or helmet-less riding.Chennithala underlined that the heavy fines had come despite the roads being in “very bad condition”.
“Roads are in pathetic shape in Kerala, with motorists having to endure hours of traffic snarls. That’s when they came out with this increased penalty,” he said.
“What they should have done is implement the previous rules properly.”