Guwahatians and for that matter, the urban populace of the entire State of Assam should build a vigorous movement to ensure the right of way of the pedestrians on the roads.
Vehicle operators on the State�s roads have become atrocious for the pedestrians, who are reduced into helpless creatures on the roads by the arrogant vehicle operators, said octogenarian senior Gauhati High Court advocate Akdas Ali Mir, who is a literary pensioner and a rights activist as well.
He maintained that without a vigorous movement, the present predicament of the pedestrians is not going to change. Only a strong pedestrian movement can force the government to pass a stringent law in favour of the rights of the pedestrians over the roads and footpaths.
The universally accepted concept on the rights of the pedestrians over the roads is such that a pedestrian is free to walk along the side of any carriageway, other than a motorway or a motorway slip road unless a police officer in uniform is directing traffic. If they order a pedestrian to stop, then the pedestrian must do so.
In the developed countries, the driver of a vehicle is to stop and remain stopped to allow a pedestrian to cross the roadway within a crosswalk when the pedestrian is upon the half of the roadway on which the vehicle is travelling, or when the pedestrian is approaching and is within one lane of the half of the roadway on which the vehicle is travelling or onto which it is turning. It is illegal for drivers to squeeze by, drive around, or stop a pedestrian in a crosswalk, even if there is room.
In such countries, pelican crossings and toucan crossings are also there for the advantage of the pedestrians and cyclists. But here in Assam, even the zebra crossing has been made to lose its meaning by the vehicle operators, more particularly by the two-wheeler operators. As per convention, approaching vehicles are to stop at a zebra crossing when they see a pedestrian either waiting to cross the road or actually in the act of crossing.
In countries like the United States and the United Kingdom, jaywalking (the American term for crossing a road at a point other than at a designated crossing) is also perfectly legal.
Legally, there are some avenues that offer protection to pedestrians in India, including the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, and the Indian Penal Code, 1860. The latter provides for the penalising of rash driving by motorists who put pedestrians at risk. There is also the Rules of the Road Regulation, 1989, which outlines the responsibilities of motorists with respect to pedestrians.
There was a move also to pass the National Road Safety and Traffic Management Board Bill in the Parliament in 2010. This Bill mandated 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.
But while these Bills and legislations could suggest/provide some legal protection to people walking on the streets, they are inadequate due to two major reasons. These are � the regulations are framed as a set of suggested responsibilities, not requirements, for motorists, and 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, said the senior advocate.
He rued the fact that the physically challenged people in Assam are made to face more hardship by the arrogant vehicle operators.
In connection with the pedestrians� right of way on the roads, he referred to the United Nations act of designating 2011-2020 as the Decade of Action for Road Safety. The European Charter of Pedestrians� Rights was adopted by the Parliament of the European Union in 1988. Moreover, some organisations also launched a drive some time back to include the campaign for pedestrian and road safety in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations, said the senior advocate.