A simple word of advice that does the rounds in the intimidating corridors of the transport department — "get the sign of a tout on your file before it is sent to the department concerned,.
The 'wise' heed the advice if they want to get their work done in a jiffy. Those who choose the honest way, suffer.
Till a few years ago, touts ran a parallel office at the zonal offices of the transport department.
From applying for learner's licence, transfer of vehicles, getting permits for buses or taxis, and yearly fitness certificates of commercial vehicles – nothing moved till the file was processed through a tout.
Though the government has managed to bring about some improvement — especially when it comes driver's licence - by reducing human interface to some extent, it has miles to go.
The tout-official nexus is formidable and seems to be difficult to break.
The problem lies in the sheer magnitude of work the transport department handles.
There are 65 lakh registered vehicles in Delhi, more than the combined number of three other metros — Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata, a population of 17 million, the world's largest CNG-run public transport system, and about 80,000 para-transit vehicles.
"With such long queues at each counter, people tend to find an easier way out by greasing the palms of officials through touts, said Devendra Gupta, who had come to the Loni Road zonal transport office to get a learner's licence.
While it is easier to get a driver's licence made or transfer a car, the problems increase when it comes to commercial vehicles.
Ask bus operators, three-wheeler drivers and transporters who visit the office for permits and other related work.
The autorickshaw unit and the vehicle fitness centre at Burari are a den of touts. Members of transporters' and auto unions as well as representatives of 'fly by night' newspapers are known to act as agents for officials.
"I have been coming here to get a fitness certificate for my three-wheeler for the past 15 days. Every time I come, they reject my application on one pretext or the other. This time the vehicle inspector said my rickshaw looks shabby and I should clean and paint it,, said Prasad Kumar, a three-wheeler driver.
Kumar said an agent then helped him to get fitness clearance from the vehicle inspector for Rs. 500.
"It is not just me, several of my friends who run auto-rickshaws face similar problems. We have made several complaints to senior officers but to no avail, said Kumar.
The fitness centre for heavy vehicles is another place where operators complain of harassment and corruption.
Being the only fitness centre in Delhi, all commercial vehicles come here once a year for mandatory checking of brakes, engine, speed governor and pollution.
While the tests should be done and fitness certificate be given the same day, operators complain they are often sent back to get minor repairs.
If one takes the help of a tout, the ride is smooth.
"We have privatised 90 per cent of fitness process to a private company, which has latest computerised machines. There is no scope to harass vehicle owners, said a senior transport official, who is not authorised to speak to the media.