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Smart cards not so smart after all

Lettering on the card fades when it is exposed to sunlight; plastic cover peels off in water, reports Rajendra Aklekar.

business Updated: Aug 07, 2007 05:25 IST
Rajendra Aklekar

SMART card driving licences that were supposed to last for 20 long years have started falling apart in the first monsoon.

And those who have acquired the new licences have questioned the transport department’s over-enthusiasm in the matter as none of the regional transport offices is equipped to handle the heavy workload and maintain the quality of the new-age licences.

From August 1, the state made it compulsory to get smart card licences even for existing permanent licence holders.

Existing users are supposed to convert their licences to smart cards when they approach the RTO for any change in their cards.

The state launched the ambitious scheme for paperless travel in December 2006 by converting paper licences into small plastic card motor driving licences with a small 4kb memory chip, listing traffic offence history and other background details of the cardholder. According to the deal, of the Rs 200 fee on smart card, the contractor was supposed to get Rs 112 and the state government Rs 88.

The software for the smart cards has been developed by National Informatics Centre, New Delhi, while the hardware components are designed by UTL, a Hyderabad-based company.

The software for issuance of licences and registration is called ‘Saarthi’ and ‘Vahan’ respectively, which will focus on combination of Light Motor Vehicle (LMV) and Heavy Motor Vehicle (HMV) underlined in section 10 of the Motor Vehicles Act.

Smart Cards will be issued to permanent licence holders whereas learners’ licences will be on laminated paper.

“The department should have gone slow in implementing the scheme and should not have rushed into it like this. None of the three RTOs in Mumbai is equipped to handle the infrastructure like air-conditioners for their servers and proper maintenance for computer equipment.

This leads to frequently crashing of computers, causing more chaos,” said Deepak Kapadia, president of Western India Automobile Association.

“There is no limit to how many smart cards will be issued in a day, leading to more quantity rather than quality. The contractor involved in the work gets paid per card issued. The biggest joke is that the traffic police do not have equipment to check these cards,” said an RTO agent at Andheri.

Even the letters on the card fade even when exposed to sunlight. The plastic cover that holds vital information peels off in water.

An officer issuing the card at the Andheri office complained about the sheer number of people that crowd the office daily. “If anything goes wrong, I will be held responsible, being the signatory officer on the card. The government should set up trained staff for this purpose and not bring in sudden changes like this,” an assistant RTO official said.

Maharashtra Transport Commissioner Shyamsunder Shinde rubbished the claim that the cards were of poor quality. “One should be careful with such important documents and always keep them wrapped in plastic sheets.”