Limited legal protection for Indian pedestrians is inadequate

Dear Friends,

Legally, there are some avenues that offer protection to pedestrians, including the Motor Vehicles Act (1988); the Indian Penal Code (1860), which provides for the penalizing of rash driving by motorists who put pedestrians at risk; and the Rules of the Road Regulation (1989), which outlines the responsibilities of motorists with respect to pedestrians. Most recently, the National Road Safety and Traffic Management Board Bill (2010) mandates the Board to provide special requirements for women, children, senior citizens, disabled persons, and pedestrians relating to road safety and traffic management on national highways. While these laws provide some legal protection to people walking on streets, they are inadequate due to two major reasons:

1. The regulations are framed as a set of suggested responsibilities, not requirements, for motorists.

2. In the absence of defined rights for pedestrians, neither municipal authorities nor private motorists bear any legal responsibility for the environment that is generated by their actions.”

The most recent accidents in May 2014 and the appeal to PM Modiji by one accident victim’s wife explain it all.

UN Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020: India is a party to UN’s decadal effort.

International efforts to include pedestrian/Road safety in Sustainable Development Goals are likely to succeed.

CSOs / NGOs and Activists have a lot to contribute at the India International Road and transportation Fair Sept.17-19, 2014.


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6 Responses to Limited legal protection for Indian pedestrians is inadequate

  1. Tejinder S. Bhogal says:

    I agree with Mr. Gurumani: pedestrians truly have no space. In large areas, there are no footpaths. Many areas that had hitherto served as footpaths are simply taken over by vehicles parked there, forcing pedestrians to actually walk on the road. While a very large number flyovers have come up in places like Delhi, there are hardly any places for pedestrians to cross the road: it is positively dangerous for pedestrians to cross at many places.

    About the point made by Mr Murthy that the worse offenders in this regard are the autos, buses and taxis, let me point out that one of the basic causes of pedestrians being pushed out is the basic encouragement that our policies give to car/SUV owners. Ideally speaking, if we had three times more buses/taxis/autos, we would probably have been able to live with ten times less private cars/SUVs. As of now, so much of road space is being given over to the huge space guzzling private cars/SUVs. (a Bus is significantly more efficient in this regard). So much is the blind devotion to private cars/SUVs, that the initiative for Rapid Bus Transport has got totally sabotaged in Delhi because of the opposition of the strident minority of car owners.

    In short, we cannot look at the pedestrian problems in isolation, and need to look at the comprehensive package of what are we doing for cars, public transport (including green transport measures such as cycle rickshaws), and public mobility (including pedestrians)

  2. c udayashankar says:

    “Free”left turns should be subjected to pedestrian signal which is yet to be integrated into signal cycle at every junction 24/7. Globalisation with a human face means the same, not just dedicated 11km-fly over to international Airport.
    As every one knows, even the existing laws are being violated all over the Country.
    We as a nation have not understood the constitutionally guaranteed right to life which includes road safety for all and breathable Air, just like Supreme Court’s judgment on drinkable water quality.

  3. prof arif Waqif says:

    Traffic sense and discipline have to be ingrained at the family level to begin with. How many parents driving/mobiking with family observe other than “ME-FIRST” aggressive and insensitive driving, endangering self and others, especially children, women, sr citizens? How many schools educate the students on basic traffic discipline and safety? How many traffic violators bribe the police? How many get into fist-fights in road-rages?
    In India traffic moves like “a marriage procession,” everyone dancing around to their own tune. In the US eg it moves like a “funeral procession.” Becuase that is how drivers are brought up, and not just because there are laws and fines. In Iran I learned that children will not pluck flowers in public streets or gandens, because that’s what they are taught by their parents about flowers in their own home gardens, not because they can be fined, which the parents will pay.

  4. C S N Murthy says:

    I have read Mr. Gurumani’s comments. No doubt the pavement for pedestraians are full occupied by vendors – selling helmets,coconuts,water dispensers. Yes I accept they are poor people earning money in a most honest & hard working manner. But they will not occupy a small portion of the pavement but they spread their wares without leaving any place for pedastrians. And also imagine the worst nightmare comes from scooterists & motorcyclists. If they is traffic jam, they mindlessly come on the pavements and drive so rashly as they it is their right of way or it is their own property. Had any organisation like PCRA or NPC made any study as to how much petrol/Diesel is wasted by blocking the free left turn on the roads. The worst offenders are the buses, autos and taxi drivers. Will the MV Act be amended to make offence for blocking the free left turn like jumping a red light. Let people who drive the public utilility vehicles be trained properly before issuing a licence. There must be a separate body to issue licences to these rouge drivers, hwo are the major cause of accidents in India.


  5. VS Gurumani says:

    As it so often happens in India, all discussions around pedestrian safety focus on rights. These are meaningless when pedestrians have no space on the roads to walk, there is no commitment to their safety through budget provisions for zebra crossings and proper signalling and policing, footpaths are taken over by hoardings, sign boards and plants and so on, near zero investment in their education and rampant corruption in the issue of driving licences with very little fear of their loss regardless of offences committed. We need to fight for good execution of existing provisions of law, adoption of pedestrian safety as one of the priorities by local authorities and workable innovation through simple doable actions. An example: Even if the footpath has to accommodate many necessary intrusions into walking space, can we think of laying down practical ways of ensuring uniform, rational use of footpath space to still allow even a narrow strip, clearly demarcated walking paths for pedestrians? I can give other possibilities: why should the vehicle registration charge be so low? Can we double it, or even triple it, especially for the SUVs, to raise funds for signaling and a voluntary corps which will work during rush hours for a small honorarium?, can we zero in on the “hot spots” in every city (I am sure this will run into thousands) and figure out concrete actions which can help prevent accidents there? This is doable. We need to work for a mindset of prevention. Clamouring for rights will simply see one more set of complicated rules in place which will never be implemented.

    • Subhash Mittal says:

      Friends, I believe the sentiments being expressed by all of you are of importance. However there is a need to work on this in a systemic manner. However this is a gigantic task, considering extreme pressure on public space everywhere, different agencies working on cross purposes. For example, penalties for Traffic police challans for traffic violations are hardly a deterrent considering low value of amounts. Recently I attended a consultation organised by CSE, where I was informed that often these challans when contested in the courts (particularly Lok Adalats) even for drinking & driving are commuted from Rs to Rs 10. Thus there are huge challenges. I am glad to inform you that CSE has taken this agenda as part of its mantle, and they would be working with almost all stakeholders to address the issue in a coordinated manner. SRRF plans to do its bit by associating with them in this arena.

      warm rgds

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