Saturday , 23 March 2019

No Running Away From Speed Governors

THE government has finally put its foot down on the issue of installation of speed governors for commercial vehicles, saying it was not negotiable. Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar has refused to give in to the coercive tactics of the transport lobby. There is no running away from speed governors as that is the law, Parrikar has said. The transport department had already issued a notification making speed governors mandatory for all commercial vehicles with state permits, national permits and all-India tourist permits. Surprisingly despite the issue of installation of speed governors being directly monitored by a Supreme Court-appointed committee, it took such a long time for the state government to announce the decision to implement the law. Speed governors would help check over-speeding and prevent accidents. Over 300 people have been dying in road accidents across the state every year, and a sizeable number of accident cases are due to over-speeding. The government must act tough against the transport operators who are opposing the mandatory requirement.

Many transport operators have agreed to install speed governors.  However, they have raised the issue of high cost of speed governors available in the state. In order to ensure a smooth process of installation of speed governors the government should look into the issue of pricing of the devices and make sure that they are on par with those available in the neighbouring states. The transport sector has alleged that the devices were being sold in Goa at more than three times the prices in the neighbouring states. Not to give any more scope for delaying the process the government should appoint a technically qualified agency for installing speed governors in commercial vehicles at reasonable prices. Care should be taken that only devices with certified standards are installed.

One of the major points of resistance to speed governors by the commercial vehicle operators was that it was silly to control speed at expressways and interstate highways as they were made for high speed. The argument also highlighted that higher speed was the demand of the time as more and more goods and people were moving from one part to another on a given day.  However, the Supreme Court and the government at the Centre had taken the viewpoint that without speed governors it was difficult to reduce casualties on the roads, because over-speeding was one of the major causes of accidents. Numerous studies by the concerned central ministries had pointed to the fact that over-speeding needed to be curbed to reduce the number of road accidents. The governments at the Centre and in states are committed to reduce the number of road accidents.  The Goa government has no choice but to make the commercial vehicle owners fit speed governor devices. The state government must see that the speed governors are not tampered by the operators at any stage. There should be random checks of the vehicles fitted with devices and the transport department should oversee that there were no manipulations of devices or records.

As the government takes measures to settle the speed governor issue they should also take steps to resolve the other contentious issue of installation of digital fare meters on taxis. Goa is perhaps the only state where fare meter has been opposed by the taxi operators. Allegations are common of arbitrary charging by taxi drivers of tourists as well as Goans.  There have been occasions in which tourists have complained of paying more than the airfare to travel from the airport to reach their destinations. The issue has been lying unresolved for decades. Though the Chief Minister had assured the state Assembly to resolve the issue by September 30 there are no signs of any resolution at any time soon. The tourist season is set to begin in a couple of days.  The government should initiate steps to ensure that all taxi operators in the state mandatorily install digital fare meters and charge the passengers government-approved rates. As the state’s reputation as a popular tourist destination is at stake, the earlier the issue is resolved the better it would be for all.

The two issues – installation of speed governors in commercial vehicles and installation of fare meters in taxis – have been delayed in implementation by a time beyond comprehension. The state government should not have allowed it to happen. The owners of commercial transport vehicles and taxis have used their clout and influence with local MLAs to bring pressure on the state government to ward off the installations. It is time the MLAs refused to intervene on their behalf. Otherwise, they will have to share the blame for continuing high number of deaths on roads.

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