Public transport drivers strike in Delhi over higher fines

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Passengers wait for transportation during a public transport strike in New Delhi, India, Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019. (AP)
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An auto-rickshaw driver rests during a public transport strike in New Delhi, India, Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019. (AP)
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A crow flies over Delhi's skyline as rows of auto-rickshaws and taxis parked during a public transport strike in New Delhi, India, Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019. (AP)
Updated 19 September 2019

Public transport drivers strike in Delhi over higher fines

  • The United Front of Transport Associations called for the strike in New Delhi to protest the higher fines which took effect Sept. 1
  • Under the new law, the minimum penalty has been increased from $1.40 to $7

NEW DELHI: Commuters in India’s capital faced difficulties Thursday as much of the city’s public transportation, including private buses, auto-rickshaws and some ride-hailing services, remained off the roads to protest a sharp increase in traffic fines under a new law.
The government hopes the new Motor Vehicles Act will bring order to India’s chaotic roads with an almost tenfold increase in fines for traffic offenses.
The United Front of Transport Associations called for the strike in New Delhi to protest the higher fines, which took effect Sept. 1 as economic growth in India has slumped to a six-year low.
The minister for road transport and highways, Nitin Gadkari, says the increase in fines is needed to improve the appalling safety record of India’s roads, where more than 100,000 people are killed and nearly 500,000 injured in accidents every year.
Under the new law, the minimum penalty has been increased from $1.40 to $7. The penalty for driving without a license has risen from $14 to $70.
Traffic police across the country have taken to social media to educate citizens about the new rules. But many Indians are critical of the new law. Some posted pictures on Twitter of huge potholes on roads and asked what the government was doing to fix them.


Clashes erupt in Barcelona as Catalans keep up pressure for split from Spain

Updated 15 min 16 sec ago

Clashes erupt in Barcelona as Catalans keep up pressure for split from Spain

  • Protests follow jailing of separatists on Monday
  • Pro-independence leaders vow to continue campaign

BARCELONA: Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Barcelona and some clashed with police on Tuesday in a second day of protests over the jailing of nine Catalan separatists by the supreme court for their role in a failed 2017 secession bid.
Pro-independence leaders have vowed to keep pushing for a new referendum on secession, saying Monday’s prison sentences strengthened the movement.
Some Barcelona protesters threw cans and flares at riot police, setting fire to cardboard and other trash in some places. They also tried to kick down security barriers set up around the Spanish government headquarters in the city center.
Police charged the demonstrators with batons, after removing protesters blocking motorways and a train station in the region.
Elsewhere, protesters lit candles and chanted “Freedom for political prisoners” in a rally organized by Omnium Cultural organization, whose chairman Jordi Cuixart was convicted on Monday.
Pro-independence labor union confederation IAC announced a general strike in Catalonia on Friday against labor laws which unions say infringe workers’ rights.
Oriol Junqueras was given the longest sentence, of 13 years, for his role in organizing the 2017 referendum, which was ruled illegal. He told Reuters in his first interview after the sentence that it would only galvanize the independence movement.
“We’re not going to stop thinking what we think, ideals can’t be derailed by (jail) sentences,” he said, saying that a new plebiscite was “inevitable.”
The head of the regional government, Quim Torra, defended the mass protests over sentencing he described as unacceptable.
“A new stage begins where we take the initiative and put the implementation of the right to self-determination back in the center” of our proposals, Torra said, urging Madrid to pay heed and start talks to that effect.
Demonstrators had blocked railways on Monday and thousands descended on Barcelona’s international airport, where some clashed with police. An airport spokesman said 110 flights were canceled on Monday and a 45 more were canceled on Tuesday.
All the defendants were acquitted of the gravest charge, rebellion, but the length of the prison terms — which Junqueras said they planned to appeal in a European court — prompted anger in Catalonia.
Two years after the debacle of the first plebiscite, Catalonia’s independence drive still dominates much of Spain’s fractured political debate, and will likely color a national election on Nov. 10, Spain’s fourth in four years.
Acting foreign minister Josep Borrell said of the issue: “Yesterday, today and tomorrow, it remains a political problem that has to be solved.” He called for dialogue within the framework of the constitution.

GREATER AUTONOMY?
But Borrell said the independence movement had ignored those in Catalonia who were not in favor of breaking away from Spain, saying: “This is a totalitarian attitude.” Separatists have repeatedly rejected such comments.
A dialogue could focus on greater autonomy for Catalonia, possibly within a more federal plurinational framework in Spain, said Santi Vila, one of three sentenced leaders who were not sent to prison.
A known critic of the secessionist agenda who had resigned as Catalan government business counselor just before the independence declaration, Vila called for a new election in the region, something regional government head Torra opposes.
“It looks reasonable that when two governments have such a communication problem ... it’s important to ask citizens if the way being taken is correct or not,” said Vila, 46. While he also supports a referendum, he says it should not be about full independence but self-government powers.
Spain’s main parties have consistently refused to hold an independence referendum in Catalonia, although the acting Socialist government says it is open to dialogue on other issues.
Diana Riba, wife of convicted leader Raul Romeva, told Reuters the independence drive would prevail over time.
“This is a very long process but we will see results as we did with the feminist movement, how they grew until becoming massive and achieving the rights that they were seeking,” she said, calling for “everyone to take to the streets.”