Research Project

Road safety political mapping in India

Girish Agarwal and Geetam Tiwari

Project Details

Road safety advocacy is a new field of action for GRSP and the partners involved in the RS10 project.  Therefore, GRSP wishes to initiate an assessment of the political settings and context at both a national and state level to identify levels of support for the road safety policy change. This assessment includes  a political mapping of the various actors connected to the road safety legislative framework at national and state levels. The objective of this exercise is to inform the RS-10 project’s advocacy strategy and activities to achieve GRSP’s objective of seeking to strengthen/close gaps in the current road safety legislations.
In support of the above objective, the present report provides some background and a mapping of the national political actors to understand the dynamics around the passing of the amended Motor Vehicles Act and the creation of a lead road safety agency, the National Road Safety and Traffic Management Board.  The mapping includes a list of political actors and agencies/ministries at the national and sub-national level that are involved in, or influence, the formation and implementation of road safety policy decisions and legislation.

Present Study:
Against this backdrop, this study aims to develop a preliminary identification of the institutions and actors who have the power to influence the processes that can lead to final passage and implementation of legislation designed to improve road safety in India, and then to successful implementation of such legislation.
Specifically, the present study identifies the institutional and individual actors, and ranks them according to their interests and power to influence.  The study team pursued a three-pronged strategy to develop a detailed map of the institutional and individual stakeholders. This included: (i) detailed background research into the existing and proposed legislative framework as it applies to road safety, including identifying the two crucial pieces of legislation designed to support greater road safety, viz., the proposed amendments to the existing Motor Vehicles Act of 1988, and the development of auxiliary laws and policies and programmes to support greater road safety, including formation of Road Safety and Traffic Management Boards at the national and state levels; (ii) content analysis of print and electronic media, and (iii) interviews with multiple senior administrators in various state transport departments responsible for state-level road safety.

1.Road Safety in India – The Problem and Its Context
“Road Safety is a multi-sectoral and multidimensional issue. It incorporates the development and management of road infrastructure, provision of safer vehicles, legislation and law enforcement, mobility planning, provision of health and hospital services, child safety, urban land use planning etc. In other words, its ambit spans engineering aspects of both, roads and vehicles on one hand and the provision of health and hospital services for trauma cases (in post-crash scenario) on the other. Road safety is a shared, multi-sectoral, responsibility of the government and a range of civil society stakeholders. The success of road safety strategies in all countries depends upon a broad base of support and common action from all stakeholders.” 
Road safety is a state subject in India, with the Central government having little to no direct control over state transport laws and policies, or over their implementation, except setting the motor vehicles rules through the Central Motor Vehicles Rules (CMVR), 1989, and road standards through the International Red Cross (IRC). It is worth noting here that the Standards promulgated by the IRC does not have any statutory authority, and as such, IRC Standards are not mandatory for either the National or State Highways, or for any other road. 
Another potential gap in the path to improving road safety in India is that although the Central government provides the bulk of the funds to states for transport infrastructure, it has not explored its options with regards to linking road safety in states to funding. For instance, the Central Road Fund (CRF) provides funds for the development and maintenance of the national highways, state road networks, and for construction of rural roads, but the Central Government has not made improvement in road safety a condition for states receiving these funds. Legal options need to be explored to put such a linkage in place. Similarly, the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD) is responsible for developing urban transport policies on a national level, has formulated the National Urban Transport Policy,  and disburses funds to states under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) for improvement in urban infrastructure and services, including for urban transport. It is important to note here that all JNNURM funds are linked to the fulfillment of certain mandatory reforms as well as certain optional reforms, including putting in place procedures and practices to implement said reforms. The state and municipal governments routinely report full compliance.  As such, the fact that MoUD has not linked JNNURM funds to road safety is an indication of road safety not being high on the list of priorities for MoUD, and not of any statutory gaps.

Policy and Rule Framing
While building political consensus to pass the two critical pieces of legislation identified and discussed in the preceding sections—a bill to amend the MVA 1988 as per the recommendations of the Expert Committee, and a bill to bring into existence Road Safety and Traffic Management Boards at the national-level and state-level, with the provisions recommended by the Sundar Committee and as discussed above—it is also extremely important to work towards the actual framing of rules and policy related to the implementation of road safety. This latter falls in the domain of administration.  As noted previously, a number of government departments and agencies at the central level are currently involved in road safety related governance. But the power to frame road safety policy and rules is located formally in the state governments. The enforcement agencies, as well as the departments and agencies that have an interest in promoting road safety are also part of the individual state administrations and there is very little coordination between different states. In the present configuration, states have very little interest / motivation / organizational infrastructure to promote road safety across state lines. 

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