Other States

Pune residents oppose compulsory helmet rule

Safety matters: The reason, according to Pune Police Commissioner K. Venkatesham, to enforce the helmet rule is the rising deaths of two-wheeler riders. Activists dismiss this as ‘thoughtless’ and ‘absurd’.

Safety matters: The reason, according to Pune Police Commissioner K. Venkatesham, to enforce the helmet rule is the rising deaths of two-wheeler riders. Activists dismiss this as ‘thoughtless’ and ‘absurd’.   | Photo Credit: Jignesh Mistry

The Pune City police’s much-publicised directive making helmets compulsory from January 1 next year has met with opposition from citizens, activists and politicians cutting across party lines who have joined hands to form the ‘anti-helmet compulsion action committee’.

Members of this committee vehemently opposed Pune Police Commissioner K. Venkatesham’s recent decision to enact the provisions of Sections 128 and 129 of the Motor Vehicles (MV) Act, 1988 that make wearing of helmets by two-wheeler users mandatory.

Rising deaths

Mr. Venkatesham said the decision follows increasing number of fatalities among two-wheeler riders — 211 so far this year, and 195 in 2017.

“This compulsory enforcement of the helmet rule, attempted a number times before in Pune — in December 2001, 2004, and again in 2011-12 — ended in failure each time. One reason is that for every new police chief taking charge, the helmet rule is often the easiest to implement, like a showpiece achievement,” noted RTI activist Vivek Velankar, told The Hindu.

Mr. Velankar, founder of the ‘Sajag Nagrik Manch’, called the move “thoughtless” and “absurd” as it did not take into account the appalling condition of the city’s roads and the placement of arbitrary speed-breakers which aggravate road accidents.

“The authorities are completely apathetic about the state of the roads, yet they are hell-bent on imposing this rule. Instead of addressing ‘category A’ traffic offences like lane-cutting, overspeeding, or driving from the wrong side, they are focusing on helmets,” he said.

Maximum two-wheelers

With more than 24 lakh two-wheelers, the city boasts the maximum numbers in the country.

A deplorable transport system has ensured the presence of more two-wheelers in the ever-burgeoning city which is continually in the throes of traffic snarls.

“Given Pune’s traffic congestion, one cannot exceed speeds of 25 km/hr on any of the main roads. Plus, there is the question of physical ailments like spondylitis occurring as a result of driving with helmets for a long time in a city where traffic jams have become the norm,” said Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Ankush Kakade.

Those opposing the move have also questioned the quality of helmets being manufactured.

“There is bound to be a scramble for helmets before January 1. There aren’t enough ISI-certified helmets being manufactured in the country to satisfy Pune’s requirements. The police commissioner’s rash decision will only spawn an entire market of spurious helmets,” Mr. Velankar observed.

Meanwhile, in the first phase, the police began cracking the whip on government officials found driving without helmets.

‘Not for revenue’

Joint Commissioner of Police, Shivaji Bodkhe, clarified that the intent of the city police is not revenue garnering, as alleged by those opposing the compulsory helmet rule.

“It is natural that there will be some opposition. But we are organising sensitisation drives, not only in government offices, but also in private companies to urge employers to convince their staff of the benefits of using a helmet,” Mr. Bodkhe told The Hindu.

This is not the first time that the move to implement the helmet rule has run into stormy weather.

In August 2016, State Transport Minister Diwakar Raote’s ‘No Helmet, No Petrol’ rule had foundered in the face of strong opposition.

Mr. Raote finally had to soften his stand by saying the rule would not be forced, but implemented through “counselling and creating awareness”.

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Printable version | Aug 8, 2020 4:19:44 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/pune-residents-oppose-compulsory-helmet-rule/article25560785.ece

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