Defending steep fines under the new Motor Vehicles Act, Union Minister of Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari on September 11 said the government’s intention is not to garner revenue but to make people follow rules in order to reduce the number of accidents in the country.The Minister’s statement comes a day after the BJP-ruled Gujarat slashed penalties for traffic violations. In some cases, the fines have been brought down to as low as ₹1,000 from ₹10,000. While Parliament in July passed the more stringent Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2019, some States, including those ruled by the BJP, have opposed the high penalties proposed under the Bill.Stating that the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill falls under the concurrent list, giving both the Central and the State governments the right to make laws, Mr. Gadkari said, “The government’s intention is not to fine people to earn more revenue… I have said this many times that in India 5 lakh accidents take place, 1.5 lakh people lose their lives …which is the highest in the world.”He said while there are many reasons for it, including “road engineering, license related issues and some related to automotive manufacturing, the important thing is that there is no respect or fear of the law. Is fine more important that peoples lives? If you don’t break the law, you will not get fined.”Asked about some BJP-ruled states also not being in favour of steep fines, the Union minister said that in the Act, the government has provided for a lower and upper limit for a fine, and States are free to take decision. “States have the right [to reduce fines]. They can do what they find suitable…the reveue goes to the State, it doesn’t come to the central kitty… But people’s lives should be saved, accidents should be less… awareness should be spread. We have no objection with what State government does.”He, however, stressed that people’s lives should be saved. “Post this act, there is a queue in RTO offices for license…about 30% licenses were bogus… 30 years back, the fine which was ₹100, how much should it be today? I don’t need to tell you the value of rupee now and then.”Replying to a question related to Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s comments that slowdown in the auto sector was caused due to millennial mindset of using services such as Uber and Ola, Mr. Gadkari said the statement was “misinterpreted.”“There are various reasons [for the slowdown]… FM said one of the many reasons is ola Uber… You need to understand that,” he said.Additionally, the Union Minister said that any decision of reduction in GST – one of the key demand of the auto sector, will be taken only by the GST council. “I have discussed with the finance minister. But ultimately any decision needs to be taken after taking state finance ministers in confidence. So, presently he ball is with Finance ministry. They will take it up with State.”

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