Keep agents at the RTO offices at bay, or face action. The chief of motor vehicle department has warned all the regional transport offices (RTOs) across the Maharashtra to make their office premises agents-free by the weekend. Failing to do so would invite disciplinary action from next week, he warned.
Transport commissioner Mahesh Zagade has sent a 'red-inked' letter to all the RTOs asking them to get rid of agents immediately before January 12, 2015. HT has a copy of the letter.
Currently, all the RTO offices are surrounded by agents who seem to be working hand-in-glove with the RTO staff.
Majority of the people prefer to pay the agents for procurement of driving licenses, vehicle transfers, change of address, paying various taxes and other works. Citizen-activists allege that the agent-staff nexus is so vicious that the citizens, who prefer to get the work done on their own, are made to do the rounds of RTO offices and are, eventually, forced to pay the agents for the work to get done.
The nexus at the offices is often talked about, but action is rarely taken. Zagade, who is known for his dynamic style of functioning, has decided to crack down on the nexus.
In the letter sent to the RTO offices, Zagade has said that there will be surprise visits to check whether the action has been implemented on not.
"I will visit your offices incognito from December 19 and warn you that instant disciplinary action would be taken if this anti-people and undemocratic practice is found to be in existence in your jurisdiction," the letter states.
The letter further states, "I had expected that you would accomplish it immediately as this isn't a very difficult task because these agents can't sustain and flourish without the active and passive connivance of the local staff and it could be easily achieved if that connivance is terminated forthwith. This is within the domain of your administrative responsibilities."
On the other hand, the RTO officials and staff claim that the removal of agents could cause inconvenience to the public. They also claim that it is nearly impossible to eliminate the role of agents as some of them are associated with the system since many decades.
"How can you expect a fleet owner having 50 vehicles to come to the RTO office for every small work? He has every right to appoint or depute a representative," a RTO official said, making it clear that the agents should not solicit the customers at the gate.
Earlier, too, Zagade had sent a similar warning letter to all the RTO offices, after he visited the Andheri RTO few months back, where he had caught some agents and touts red-handed. The RTO offices had restricted the entry of agents, but this continued only for a couple of days. Some RTO offices, however, claim that they still restrict the entry of agents. "At our office, three officers are appointed at the gate to restrict agents' entry and we also maintain a register of all the visitors," a senior RTO official said, requesting anonymity.
When contacted, Zagade said that he was trying to ensure that the public should get better services from his department without any middlemen. "This is public's basic right under the constitution," he said.