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October 17, 2008

Pan-India Policy Will do Economy Good

BANGALORE: Fitmentof speed governors to all commercial vehicles is proving to be a knotty affair in Karnataka, which has been trying to unravel it for the past three years. Interestingly, the issue that may originate in Karnataka will impact seamless flow of goods, perishables and people between states, particularly from neighbouring parts. Many feel that the policy is flawed as it is not an internal matter of a single state. It has to be adopted nationally for it to become effective.

The final call on the issue now rests with the centre and the decision of the Supreme Court. Union road transport and highways minister T R Baalu, at a meeting of transport ministers of all states held in August, promised to sort out the issue soon. “It has been agreed in principle that the speed governors should be fitted in transport vehicles and power should be vested in the centre. Fitment of speed governors in all states should be done from an appointed date,’’ he said.

Speed governors are equipment installed into trucks and buses that limit speeds to a maximum of 60 kmph. So, plush Volvos cannot zip at 100 kmph on freshly minted highways. And, a trip to Chennai from Bangalore could take several hours more and inland people may not get to taste fresh fish. Institute for Transportation and Development Policy India director Nalin Sinha says, “installing speed governors on highways will prove to be counterproductive .

There are other ways to address safety, like reforms in issuance of driving licenses, sensitisation, better signages and strong enforcement.” In Karnataka, the problem is being tossed around from high court to supreme court, and has been temporarily shelved till the month-end . Transport operators in the state have threatened to take their vehicles off the roads from next month if the unwanted burden is not eased off their backs, and the apex court, which sought the centre’s assistance on the issue , has posted further hearing in December. For the time being, Karnataka is pinning hopes on the centre to avoid the inevitable showdown from November 1 when transporters have threatened to stop plying their vehicles.

The Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, empowers the centre to make rules regarding speed governors while a 1993-change in one of the rules thereunder confers the power to notify fitment of speed governors on the state governments . Karnataka, like other states, sought to drag its feet on the issue and after 12 long years, the state issued a notification in March, 2005 for fitment of speed governors in all different categories of transport vehicles, including maxi cabs and buses of educational institutions.

Time limits ranging from 6 to 12 months were given for fitment of speed governors while registration of new vehicles would be made only after the fitment of speed governors after May 1, 2005. From here on, it was a legal and street battle between the transporters and the government with the high court refusing to come to the rescue of the former. Though the government buckled under pressure when the transporters went on strike, extension of the deadline was the most the latter could extract.

The issue is now awaiting the apex court’s verdict. But the mood of the court’s division bench, headed by chief justice KG Balakrishnan, to state advocate general Uday Holla’s argument before it on October 1 that speed governor rule “would cripple not only the economy of the state but also that of the entire southern India” is not very promising (for the state). “Why should your state not take the lead to be the model for other states in implementing the speed governor rule?,” the bench had reportedly asked.

Holla’s contention before the Supreme Court that more than 25,000 trucks coming from neighbouring states—Maharashtra , Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Tamil Naduwould have to be stopped at the border if the speed governor rule was enforced was endorsed by transport minister R Ashok. “We hope the centre will accept our demand for evolving a uniform national policy based on scientific grounds. The centre has to immediately step in. I am also hopeful that the SC will concede our stand that enforcing speed governor in a single state is discriminatory and unfair ,”he said. “If speed governors are made mandatory for all commercial vehicles in the state, how can we allow vehicles from other states?,” Mr Ashok said.

Tamil Nadu also thinks the centre should take the lead in implementation of speed governors. “( The centre) is expected to convene ministers from each state and take over the power of implementation, so that the standards are uniform countrywide,” said TN transport commissioner C P Singh.

State transport commissioner Bhaskar Rao said, the centre had accepted the demands from majority of state governments and union territories to take upon itself the powers pertaining to speed governors under the MV Act and frame an uniform policy for the entire country. Karnataka has 17 checkposts and nearly 25,000 trucks enter the state on a daily basis from different states.

The transport operators are unanimous in their stand against its implementation. Federation of Karantaka State Lorry Owners’ & Agents Association president G R Shanmugappa said truck owners would be unable to afford the additional cost of about Rs 20,000 on installing speed governors. “Even for new vehicles, we will accept only if there is an uniform policy for the entire country,” he said.

To access the original article, click on the link below:

Pan-India Policy Will do Economy Good


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