Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari on Wednesday said majority of automobile manufacturers in India are already exporting cars with six airbags, and there is a need to adopt similar safety norms for cars in the country, stressing that they should also think about safety of people using small economy cars.
Addressing the annual session of Automotive Component Manufacturers Association of India (ACMA), Gadkari pointed out that every year, some 5 lakh road accidents kill 1.5 lakh people and injure over 3 lakh.
“Majority of automobile manufacturers in India are exporting cars with 6 airbags. But in India, because of the economic model and cost, they are hesitating,” he said.
Gadkari wondered why automobile manufacturers are not thinking about the lives of people using economy cars in India. Mostly, lower middle-class people buy small economy cars.
An airbag is a vehicle occupant-restraint system which interferes between the driver and the vehicle’s dashboard during a collision, thereby preventing serious injuries.
The minister said the need of the hour is to reduce accidents in the country.
“We need cooperation of the automobile industry in reducing accidents. There should be healthy competition among manufacturers to produce safer cars,” Gadkari said.
The government is trying to make it mandatory for carmakers to provide at least six airbags in eight-seater vehicles for enhanced safety of occupants from October.
Gadkari’s remarks assume significance as it comes against the backdrop of the automobile industry raising concerns that high taxation and stricter safety and emission norms for vehicles have made their products expensive.
Earlier this year, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) in a statement said that in order to enhance the safety of occupants of the motor vehicle against lateral impact, it has been decided to enhance safety features by amending the Central Motor Vehicles Rules (CMVR), 1989.
“A draft notification has been issued on January 14, 2022, which mandates that vehicles of category M1, manufactured after October 1, 2022, shall be fitted with two side/side torso air bags, one each for the persons occupying front row outboard seating positions, and two side curtain/tube air bags, one each for the persons occupying outboard seating positions,” it had said.
According to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data, over 1.55 lakh lives were lost in road crashes across India in 2021 — an average of 426 daily or 18 every single hour — which is the highest death figures recorded in any calendar year so far.
According to the report titled ‘Road accidents in India — 2020’, more than 11 per cent of deaths and injuries were caused due to non-usage of seat belts.
Gadkari said road safety is the highest agenda for the government.
Responding to demands of automotive component manufacturers for reduction of GST, he said this sector is giving ‘maximum revenue’ to the government and that is the reason no finance minister is ready to compromise on that.
Gadkari asked automobile manufacturers to start manufacturing flex fuel engine vehicles. “On the 28th of this month, I am going to launch the Toyota flex-engine car in Delhi,” he said.
Last year, the road ministry had issued an advisory to carmakers to introduce flexible-fuel engines in vehicles.
Flex-fuel, or flexible fuel, is an alternative fuel made of a combination of gasoline and methanol or ethanol.
The minister emphasised on the need of encouraging people to use mass rapid transport system. “We need to discourage people from purchase more cars… ..how it is possible to increase the width of the road,” he said.
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