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Saturday, March 2, 2013

Didi's 'reform' move runs into wall

KOLKATA: One of the key "reforms" in the transport sector - sending licences to applicants by registered post - came to an abrupt end with the Mamata Banerjee government deciding to revert to the old system of distributing licences from the regional transport offices (RTOs).

On behalf of the government, transport minister Madan Mitra defended the U-turn, saying: "We had to reintroduce the old system because the new one led to complexities." He blamed the "ill-equipped" postal department for poor implementation of the licence-by-post system, which was introduced only a year ago to verify the addresses and more importantly, end the middle-men era.

The notification for doing away with the system of sending driving licences to residences of applicants was issued earlier this week, much to the surprise of transport department officials.

"Hundreds of driving licences have been redirected to the RTOs since the applicants were not available at the given addresses. What are we supposed to do with all these smart-cards? The system would have worked had there been adequate back-up. The Indian postal system is hardly equipped for implementation of modern methods," he said.

According to sources, the transport department has so far posted around 64,000 licences. Of these, around 8,000 smart cards couldn't be delivered since the applicant was not there to receive his or her licence.

The transport minister insisted that driving licences shouldn't be compared with passports that are home-delivered too. "There is a huge difference between a passport-holder and a driving-licence holder. Many of the applicants don't have a proper home to live. Some times, a pavement dweller applies for a driving licence to eke out a living. How can we deliver his licence if he doesn't pick it up himself?" As an after-thought, Mitra added: "Those who want their licences home-delivered should apply to us and we shall consider their request."

It may be noted that the introduction of the new system had brought relief to officials, who would watch helplessly "agents" flourish at the RTOs, as well as the applicants, for whom it meant an end to standing in serpentine queues at the RTOs.

It is not clear if the government has buckled under the pressure of the Bengal Taxi Association, which had pleaded on behalf of taxi-drivers from other states and without permanent addresses, to reconsider its decision to continue with the latest system.
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