Gadkari’s comment came in the backdrop of comments by certain sections of vehicle manufacturers who have been critical of the government’s proposal to make six airbags mandatory across all cars and the decision to introduce India’s car safety rating mechanism, Bharat NCAP, which will be voluntary. The road transport ministry has not yet come out with the final notifications.
“We have taken a decision for mandatory provision of six airbags in cars, even in the economic models. Now some of the companies are making cars in India which are not up to the international standard. But they are making cars of the same model, which comply with the international standard, for the foreign market. I can never understand this. We need to understand the importance of such decisions. When India reports maximum road crashes and deaths, why are they not taking it seriously?,” the minister said while addressing a conference organised by a major IT company in Delhi.
Gadkari said some automobile companies “have been constantly opposing” the proposal of six airbags in cars, which have been proposed only to save lives.
While announcing the proposal for six airbags, Gadkari had also told Parliament in March that deployment of six functional airbags could have saved 13,000 lives in 2020.
The minister said when there is growth in the automobile industry and rise in the number of vehicles, it becomes all the more important to see that roads are safer. While India has barely 1% of the vehicles across the globe, it has a dubious distinction of 10% of world’s road deaths.
In a candid admission, Gadkari accepted that the design of roads, poor project reports, drivers’ behaviour and enforcement issues contribute to road crashes and fatalities in India. “People park vehicles on roads..There is a lack of driving sense. There is no respect for traffic rules and no fear of offence. This is because people feel they can easily manage. I don’t want to elaborate more on it as you all know the extent of corruption on the roads.”
Sources recalled that it took around three years to implement the mandatory double airbag for driver and front seat passenger in the cars. Earlier, car manufacturers had reservations even about mandatory introduction of single airbags arguing that seatbelts were meeting the safety criteria.
In fact, the draft notification for six airbags was made after the minister had asked his officials, on whether those seeking to buy economic models of cars should be allowed to do so and if vehicle safety was meant only for the rich.
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