Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala Transport Minister Antony Raju on Monday made it clear that the government will slap hefty penalties on tourist buses and their operators if unwonted and illegal fittings are found on the vehicles.
Speaking to reports in Thiruvananthapuram, the minister said that at least Rs 10,000 will be levied for each new fitting. This is double what was levied until now.
The development comes just days after a tragic accident in Palakkad where a tourist bus, found to have driven recklessly and over the speed limit, collided with a KSRTC passenger vehicle, killing nine.
In the case of the Palakkad accident, it was also found that the speed governor, which limits the speed of a vehicle, was detached.
The minister said that any tampering with the speed governor, usually fitted to public passenger vehicles, would invite criminal charges.
The criminal charges would also be slapped on anyone aiding in the removal or tampering of speed governors, the minister added.
The new changes are to enforce strict adherence to the law, the minister said. The Kerala High Court too had made a directive on similar lines.
It urged for the cancellation of fitness certificates of 'modified' vehicles. The government welcomed the court's order and said it will be strictly implemented.
The government has also ramped up its efforts to ensure that no vehicles, especially tourist buses, adorned with unwonted and illegal fittings will ply on the road.
All such buses are to be registered under their respective Regional Transport Office (RTO) and will be prone to a three-tier inspection at regular intervals.
There are 86 RTOs in the state. A dedicated officer will be assigned to each bus to conduct regular inspections. A supervisor will conduct a weekly inspection.
In addition to these, a 'super check cell' has also been formed to carry out surprise inspections.
If the vehicle is found plying on the road with modifications, all officers involved will also be penalised, the minister said.
Apart from vehicle checks, there would be random inspections jointly by RTO officials and Excise Department to catch those driving under the influence of intoxicating substances, the minister added.
License will be revoked
That's not all. The license of the driver and the permit of the operator will also be revoked.
To see the license renewed, they must attend and pass a refresher class.
Those whose license has been revoked for driving under the influence of alcohol must also undergo this course.
Colour code and GPS
A uniform colour code for stage carriages would be strictly implemented from now on and vehicles violating the same would be impounded, the minister said.
Contract vehicles are painted white with blue borders. The minister urged all such vehicles to switch to this paint as soon as possible.
GPS has also been made mandatory in vehicles. The fitness certificate of vehicles without a GPS will be cancelled, the minister said.
Vehicles from other states
Another major step taken by the government is to cancel the earlier directive of the Transport Commissioner which allowed tourist vehicles registered in other States with all-India Permits to move freely in Kerala. "From now on, they can run on Kerala roads only if they pay road tax in the State similar to the model adopted by Tamil Nadu. This will come into effect from November 1," the Minister said.
Regular inspections will also be conducted at popular tourist spots. The minister also urged people to refrain from using modified vehicles for their journeys.