September 12, 2019 / 12:37 PM / a year ago

Indian states resist government's steep hike in traffic fines

MUMBAI/BHUBANESWAR (Reuters) - More than a dozen Indian states are planning to resist or reconsider steep hikes in traffic fines imposed by the central government, ministers and local media said on Thursday, amid rising anger from motorists across the country.

A traffic police officer uses a device to fine a driver for breaking traffic rules in Mumbai, September 5, 2019. REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government hopes to bring order to India’s often chaotic roads with a tenfold increase in fines for more serious offences to between 5,000 rupees ($70) and 100,000 rupees ($1,400) - far in excess of the per capita monthly income of 10,500 rupees ($147).

Last week, media reported a rickshaw driver was hit with fines that were nearly twice the cost of his vehicle.

On Thursday, representatives of three Indian state governments told Reuters they were reconsidering whether to implement the hike.

Local media reported that more than a dozen of India’s 29 states - including some ruled by or in alliance with the BJP - were opposed in some way to the increases, while members of the opposition Congress party have protested outside the home of India’s federal roads minister, Nitin Gadkari.

“We recognise that there is public anger about the extent of the fines. We have written to Mr Gadkari about our concerns and urged him to reconsider,” Diwakar Raote, transport minister for the western state of Maharashtra, told Reuters.

The state government led by the Shiv Sena party, a key ally of the BJP, was currently neither opposed nor in favour of the act that introduced the steeper fines, he added.

“People consider the fines under the act as too high,” Padmanabha Behera, commerce and transport minister in the eastern state of Odisha, told Reuters. “We are examining the steps other states are taking and will take a decision soon.”

Rakesh Tripathi, spokesman for the BJP government in India’s most populous state of Uttar Pradesh, told Reuters it was reviewing how it would implement the act.

“The cabinet will decide on it in the next meeting,” he said.

A spokeswoman for India’s federal transport ministry declined to comment.

Gadkari told reporters on Wednesday the increases were required to combat the appalling safety record of India’s roads, where 100,000 people are killed and nearly 500,000 injured in accidents every year.

Reporting by Shilpa Jamkhandikar in Mumbai, Jatindra Dash in Bhubaneswar and Suarabh Sharma in Lucknow; Writing by Alasdair Pal; Editing by Alex Richardson

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