Two days after the death of Cyrus Mistry in a car accident, Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari on Tuesday announced that those who sit behind cars and do not wear seat belts will soon be fined.
Mistry, the former Tata Sons chairman, was sitting in the back seat and not wearing a seatbelt when his speeding Mercedes hit a divider in Maharashtra’s Palghar district on Sunday.
“Already, it’s mandatory to wear seatbelt at the rear seat but people are not following it. There will be a siren if the people at the rear seat don’t wear belts like for the front seats. And if they don’t wear belts, there will be a fine,” said Mr Gadkari in an exclusive interview to NDTV, stressing that “at any lost, lives have to be saved”.
The intention is not to impose fines, but to raise awareness, Mr Gadkari said about the mandatory use of seat belts for those in the back seat. He said that the target is to reduce the number of road accidents by 50 percent by 2024.
“The minimum fine is ₹1,000,” the minister said directly in response to a question on what would be the penalty for not wearing a rear seat belt.
Asked whether enforcement of a fine will be problematic since state governments have a say in the matter, the Minister said, “No. I don’t think so. They always support us.”
“There are cameras and anywhere people who aren’t following can be caught easily,” said Mr Gadkari.
Asked whether mandatory airbags in the rear seats would increase the cost, the minister insisted that it was necessary to save lives.
“Cost of 1 airbag is 1,000, for 6, it’s 6,000. With more production, the cost will be reduced. Cost is not important, people’s lives are,” he emphasised.
As per the rules, airbags are mandatory for the front passenger and the driver in India. From January 2022, the government has made it mandatory to fit 6 airbags in every passenger car with a passenger limit of up to 8.
Celebrities are campaigning for road safety, said the Minister, adding that he seeks cooperation from media.
“I am really very sorry and feeling bad. We should take the lesson and learn from it,” said Mr Gadkari on Cyrus Mistry’s death in a car accident.
More than 59,000 people were killed and 80,000 seriously injured in road accidents in Maharashtra in less than five years, according to data released by the traffic police.
According to the report titled “Road Accidents in India – 2020”, more than 11% of deaths and injuries are due to non-wearing of seat belts, while 30.1% of deaths and 26% of injuries are due to non-wearing of helmets.