Sunday 15 September 2019

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Infrastructure | Transport

Bike riders oppose helmets

 

Motorcycle pilots - a unique feature of Goa who provide motorcycle taxis to carry a single person - are in trouble with a high court directive to strictly implement the rule of wearing helmet for a rider as well as the pillion rider.

As these pilots spread all over in the towns and villages carry hundreds of people every day, they fear that the rule would deprive them of their livelihood as people sitting behind may not prefer wearing a helmet provided by the motorcycle taxi.

Due to humidity in the coastal state, Dnyaneshwar Sawant, one of the veteran pilots from Mapusa, feels that any health-conscious Goan would refuse to wear the same sticky helmet used by the others. "On the other hand, the police will fine us heavily for carrying the passenger without helmet", he fears.

Though motorcycle taxis with yellow colour painted on its mudguard is a common feature in the tourist state, people riding illegal taxis without registering themselves as pilots has also become rampant in the major towns of the state.

These 'influential' people, most of whom are the government servants skipping their official duties in order to earn extra income, have already become a major obstacle for the official pilots in getting their rightful share. The court verdict passed in January this year thus spells doom for these pilots.

The court verdict in fact boomeranged on a citizen who had challenged the rule of wearing the helmet by the rider. Taking a step ahead while dismissing the petition, the court made it compulsory for both the rider and the pillion under the provisions of the motor vehicle act from 3 April. Not wearing helmets was cited as a major cause of large amount of two-wheeler accidents in the state.

"The authorities need not bother about our safety. We are capable enough of taking care of ourselves", says Premanand Lotlikar, a village-based dramatist who has been made convenor of the newly formed Motorcycle Action Group. They have already started anti-helmet campaign throughout the state.

Goa has the highest population of two-wheelers with around 50 two wheelers getting registered every day. Besides privately owned two wheelers and the motorcycle taxis, Goa's coastal belt is also popular for providing bikes on hire to the tourists - the special attraction for the young turks visiting the beaches.

Though neither motorcycle pilots nor the hiring agencies have formed any organisation to fight the issue, the private two wheeler owners are pressurising the government to change the legal provision. "Maharashtra and Karnataka have already scrapped it", claims N Shivdas, a writer and president of the Goa Commuters' Association.

Aires Rodrigues, a UK-returned young lawyer supporting the anti-helmet movement, in fact suspects hand of helmet manufacturers' lobby behind it. Denying the allegation, transport minister Pandurang Raut however claims that their demands are being studying sympathetically. "We will decide about it before 3 April", he assures.

While court has made use of helmets compulsory in order to avoid frequent accidents taking place on the roads, the government has also worked out an alternate state-wide plan to minimise the number of accidents by taking appropriate steps at the accident-prone zones. The authorities however are still silent over their secret strategy.






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