Odisha Relaxes Vehicular Pollution Rules for a Month, Minister Says Law on Traffic Fines Needs Review
Bhubaneswar: After public resentment across Odisha due to strict implementation of new traffic rules and hefty fines for violators, the government on Friday relaxed the rule for possession of pollution-under-control (PUC) certificates for a month.
Under the New Motor Vehicles Act (2019), which was implemented across the country from September 1, a violation of air/noise pollution by a vehicle attracts a fine of Rs 10,000 from its owner.
“Since many people do not have pollution-under-control certificates, most testing centres are not linked online, and there are long queues at the testing centres, we have decided to allow a relaxation of the rules for a month. We are also allowing manual PUC certificates,” said state transport secretary G Srinivasan.
Reports of ordinary people riding two-wheelers or driving four-wheelers having to cough up amounts as high as Rs 47,000 each for violations of rules have caused a sense of fear in the general public across Odisha. Roads in major cities such as the capital Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Rourkela and Balasore are seeing unusually thin traffic flow at peak hours for the past two days.
Labour and rural development minister Sushant Singh said the new rules and hefty fines have brought pain to ordinary people. “The law has been made applicable throughout the country, but I see several discrepancies in it. A two-wheeler rider has to pay the same amount as fine for a violation of the rules as that of a person driving a car worth Rs 50 lakh,” he said.
“Unless the discrepancies in the law are removed, the ordinary people will keep facing problems. People using motor vehicles on the roads are having to pay fines many times the money they have with them at the time. This has sparked huge public discontent. So it will be better if the law is reviewed and made applicable only after removing such discrepancies,” added the minister.
Santosh Singh Saluja, a senior MLA of the Opposition Congress, dubbed the high fines as “jijiya tax” and urged the government to give people more time to comply with the rules.
“People have been fined amounts as high as Rs 35,000 and Rs 47,000. An auto-rickshaw driver would not get Rs 47,000 even if he sells his vehicle. The government should desist from such tyrannies on ordinary people. People should be allowed time to put together their vehicles’ documents. The government should stop this jijiya tax and should not force people to pay up,” said Saluja.
BJP’s Bishnu Charan Sethi, deputy leader of the Opposition in the Assembly, said: “It would have been better if a proper awareness campaign about the new traffic rules had been carried out instead of starting this sudden drive for compliance of traffic rules. The same government has been ruling in Odisha for the past 20 years, but what has it done to improve compliance of traffic rules?”
When reminded that it was the central government that brought in the law prescribing higher amounts of fines, Sethi said: “The new traffic rules and fines for violations came as per a Supreme Court order. It is alright to implement the top court’s order, but the court did not say that the government should implement these rules before putting in place proper infrastructure.”
In the first four days after the new traffic rules came in force, Rs 88.90 lakh was collected in Odisha from 4,080 challans that were issued for violations spotted by cops on the roads.