A biker was mad when Delhi police booked him for riding drunk and fined him Rs10,000 (Dh512), so he set fire to his motorcycle.
Indians are not used to getting such huge traffic fines and many are not mentally prepared to shell out astronomical sums for a simple thing like ignoring all rules of the road. An Uber driver even slapped a policemen for getting what he believed was an outrageous fine.
Usually, once a person gets his driving licence from the Transport Department, all that he or she has learnt about traffic signs and why it is unethical to run down pedestrians, goes out of the window, so to speak, as they hit the road.
Psychologists believe it takes 21 days to break a bad habit, so it was no surprise when a policeman was caught riding a bike without a helmet, with another policeman riding pillion, as soon as the new traffic rules were enforced on September 1.
Expats who work in Bengaluru say they love driving in India as there are no road rules.
The policemen was fined double the amount to send home the message that getting injured on the road is inconvenient for others as it holds up the traffic, that it is costing the exchequer big bucks to hospitalise the reckless, and as it stresses out the families of the traffic accident victim, both mentally and financially.
Riding a bike without a helmet will now fetch you a ticket for Rs1,000, a 10-fold increase from Rs100.
On most days you can see toe-curling scenes of a man riding a bike, with a woman on the pillion, without a helmet, chatting on her phone, and a schoolgirl with a helmet jammed in the middle, and a boy hanging on to the handlebars, without a helmet.
More than 1,500 riders were booked for not wearing a helmet within a few days of the new fines being enforced.
The minister for road transport said the new motor vehicles amendment bill will help increase state revenue every year and new technology will make road safety a priority, provide a better user experience and weed out corruption.
People generally believe that the police only dole out fines in the first week of every month to fill a quota of sorts.
Under the new rules, motorists will be fined Rs10,000 for not giving way to ambulances and emergency vehicles, the same amount for not having a Pollution Under Control certification, and Rs1000 for not wearing a seat belt.
'Small cars don’t need seat belts'
When I asked an Uber driver where the seat belt was after searching for it everywhere on the back seat, he told me not to worry, “Small cars don’t need seat belts.”
I thought that made sense as the cars are so teeny and tinny that one can be easily compacted on the first impact with a lorry lumbering with a huge load of stones, and no amount of belting up may ever save you.
Expats who work in Bengaluru say they love driving in India as there are no road rules, and you can see them happily drive in the wrong direction on a one-way street.
Every year about 500,000 traffic accidents take place around the country and it is mostly the motorists’ fault and negligence.
The huge traffic fines have become a political issue and Twitterati are having a great time creating memes.
First give us good roads and get rid of confusing signs, say the motorists.
Even as Indian scientists were trying to land a rover on the Moon, an actor did a Moon Walk on the back-breaking potholes on Indian roads to shame the transport department.
— Mahmood Saberi is a storyteller and blogger based in Bengaluru, India. Twitter: @mahmood_saberi