Some solutions, within the existing laws, are extremely simple
Union transport minister, Nitin Gadkari, has announced that the role of regional transport offices (RTOs) would be redefined. Over the years and decades, RTOs, as we know them, have evolved simply into money-spinners for those who work there. RTO comes into your life when you buy a motor vehicle. At that juncture, usually, you do not have the faintest idea of what is involved, as you sign a sheaf of blank papers which eventually becomes a registration certificate of some sort (paper or plastic), if all is in order and if you are lucky.
If, on the other hand, all is not in order (as it often is, given the complex rules and regulations involved), or if the RTO makes a mistake (as the RTO often does, from wrong spelling to huge delays), you will need to shell out more money and time if you want what by rights is your prerogative—the registration certificate.
RTO also comes into your life when you need a driving licence and when you need to renew it. We are all aware of what the truth is, here too, and all of us live with it as one of the realities of life in India. But matters become much more complicated when the registration and driving licence are for commercial vehicles. That's when, frankly, things become so bad that it can be called anti-national.
Some solutions, within the existing Motor Vehicles Act or with minor amendments, are so simple that these need to be implemented immediately. These include:
• A motor vehicle should be provided with a unique registration number at the time of manufacture. This stays with the vehicle for its life until it is scrapped or destroyed. This registration should be in a national database and can be YYWWxxxxxAAA where -
YY stands for the last two digits of the year, WW stands for the week number in that year (01-52 or 53), xxxxx stands for the 5-digit number for that specific vehicle for that week and AAA stands for the manufacturer. (When any manufacturer makes more than 99,999 vehicles in a week, the AAA manufacturer code can be tweaked)
Change of ownership in the life of the vehicle can be done online by a simple process of paying a fee, submitting the identity proofs of the new buyer and updating the relevant database. Vehicle fitness should be brought into the ambit of the manufacturer's facilities, with timelines of 10-15 years and then every two years, subject to the manufacturer maintaining spare parts and service for the make and model to be re-certified for fitness for private vehicles.
For commercial vehicles, manufacturers could be asked to perform the ‘fitness’ test every year and commercial vehicles should be ‘retired’ after a specific period, or distance covered, which should be made known to the buyer at the time of purchase.
• A driving licence, once issued at the age of 18, should be valid till the age of 60. There should be age-related grading for class and power of vehicle permitted to be driven. Insurance cover needs to be mandatory for the driver as well as the vehicle, separately. Age- and track-record based endorsements should be automatic and not require any further regulations beyond insurance-linked training modules which can be delivered online.
The medical certification process, as it exists today, has been thoroughly corrupted; it needs to be done away with totally. The process should also be linked to the insurance of the driver of the vehicle.
Conversion of a ‘private’ driving licence to a ‘commercial’ driving licence should not become the complicated process it is at present; it should be automatic, subject to police verification and track record, with one specific feature - validity all-India and requiring endorsement for ‘hill’ driving. Any commercial licence endorsement for ‘hill’ driving needs to be subject to valid proof of being a co-driver on ‘hill’ sectors should be submitted to the satisfaction of the insurance companies.
The present RTO system needs to be given the same treatment as the Planning Commission. The staff released from there can be absorbed in the prime minister's cleanliness mission.
(Veeresh Malik started and sold a couple of companies, is now back to his first love—writing. He is also involved in helping small and midsize family-run businesses re-invent themselves.)