Want to see a system infested to the core by corruption? Step into a Regional Transport Office (RTO).
The nexus between corrupt staffers at the RTO and agents working outside the office has made the process of obtaining a driver’s licence, or any other vehicle-related document, a tedious and costly affair.
“When I went to the RTO for a driver’s licence, a few agents approached me and assured that I could get a licence without difficulty, provided I paid more,” said Kunal Shroff, a collegian.
Often, the situation is worse with staff refusing to co-operate until papers are moved through agents. Some agents have set up numbered tables and chairs at the entrance of RTOs, and charge anywhere between Rs500 to Rs 3,000, depending on the nature of the work.
Senior RTO officials acknowledge the problem but complain that the staff-agent lobby is very strong and those who oppose it are threatened. Earlier this year, an employee with the Andheri RTO had to be hospitalised after he was beaten up for opposing this lobby.
Is there no hope, then, for upright applicants? “We do give priority to a person who has applied without help from middlemen or driving schools,” said a senior RTO official, in defence.
Motor driving schools are another hindrance. These schools charge hefty fees—anywhere between Rs 3,000 to Rs 5,000—and assure learners of a driver’s licence. It is alleged that applicants coming through driving schools are given licences easily.
“Our men are present along with the RTO officer during driving tests. We ensure our students don’t fail,” said a representative from a suburban driving school.
Though RTO officials claim that licences are sent by post— and not through middlemen— people have a different story to tell. “Even after 40 days, I didn’t receive my driver’s licence by post. The driving school that was supposed to renew my licence demanded Rs 500 for getting it,” said U Kumar.
Those who tried to get their vehicles registered on their own have similar stories to tell. Car dealers often charge more than double the actual fees for getting the vehicle registered on behalf of the owner, claiming they can get it done ‘faster’.
In 2009-10, corruption in the RTOs hit the headlines after it was discovered that over 700 superbikes were registered illegally, resulting in a loss of Rs 100 crore.