More than 13 lakh high-security registration plates (HSRPs) fitted in Punjab for huge cost to the exchequer have, in the opinion of experts, become a threat to national security.
These were not fixed by specifications given in the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, and the subsequent central government order of 2001 and the 2010 Supreme Court guidelines. Only three days ago, the Punjab transport department woke up to it.
The state government has terminated the contract of plate maker Agros Impex India but the damage has been done. Even by a conservative estimate, Rs 40 crore of the state exchequer money has gone down the drain.
After learning about the Punjab government blunder, international road safety expert Kamaljeet Singh Soi, who is chairman of Raahat “the Safe Community Foundation”, has written to the Union defence minister and the Union ministry of home affairs to ask them to put the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and vigilance bureau on the case, since national security is involved.
“In 2010, in the wake of a series of terrorist attacks, the Supreme Court had issued directions to put a check on fake registration plates. Militants had used these plates in the attacks on former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh and political leader Manjinderjit Singh Bitta,” said Soi.
Soi said while the state governments of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand already had terminated the contract with the firm, “the Punjab government had been sleeping for the past four years, while this firm was making mockery of the entire security and financial system of the state”.
State transport commissioner (STC) Ashwani Sharma, who terminated the contract after seeking a detailed report from the district transport officers (DTOs), accepted that the Agros Impex had not done its job by rules.
“We will float another two tenders to hire new companies, one to issue new plates, while the other to correct the damage done,” he said.
Asked why it had taken the government almost four years to wake up to a mistake of this proportion, Sharma said he had taken charge as STC only last July and acted on beginning to receive complaints.
The plates were fixed with rivets and notsnap locks.
The firm charged Punjab users 33% more than the price quoted in Maharashtra.
The embossing of the registration numbers and the riveting were done at different places.
The plate-makingcompany kept no data of the seven-digit unique identification code for each vehicle.