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Friday, Nov 15, 2019

Govt seeks RBI nod to expand FASTag usage

FASTags, which are affixed on windscreens of vehicles to enable automatic deduction of toll charges without stopping, have been made mandatory for toll payment from December 1.

india Updated: Oct 22, 2019 03:11 IST
Anisha Dutta
Anisha Dutta
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
A worker walks past the logo of Reserve Bank of India (RBI) inside its office in New Delhi.
A worker walks past the logo of Reserve Bank of India (RBI) inside its office in New Delhi.(Photo: Reuters)
         

The Centre has sought the Reserve Bank of India (RBI)’s approval for expanding the usage of radio frequency identification-based FASTags as open-loop cards to enable their use for other transactions like the purchase of fuel, according to officials aware of the development.

The Centre also plans to reach out to oil companies for enabling the payment of fuel through the tags.

FASTags, which are affixed on windscreens of vehicles to enable automatic deduction of toll charges without stopping, have been made mandatory for toll payment from December 1. Payment cards are categorised as open loop and closed loop. An open-loop payment card is one that can be widely used for making payments. Closed-loop cards are limited in terms of where they can be used. The most common examples of closed-loop payment cards are store-specific credit and gift cards.

An official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that FASTags work under a closed-loop system and that they are trying to bring them under that of the semi-close loop for them to be used for making fuel payments, etc. “It is a long process and will require the approval from the revenue ministry and the RBI,” the official said. The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) is working on the modalities for the expansion of FASTags usage other than toll payment, the official added.

Beginning December 1, commuters will need to use FASTags to pay toll along national highways across the country or pay double if they use cash.

An Indian Highways Management Company Ltd (IHMCL) official said that currently, it is not possible to have FASTags under the open-loop access card system as one cannot withdraw cash using them. The official added that they want to bring them under the semi-closed loop category.

“First, we need to see how the pilot being conducted by the IDFC bank [goes]... [IDFC] was the first bank to get the RBI approval to use the FASTags... for buying fuel at about 30-40 petrol pumps,’’ said the official of IHMCL, the NHAI’s project implementation arm.

“In the last hearing committee meeting, it was decided that we will seek permission from petroleum ministry for getting state-run Indian Oil Corporation Ltd and Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited on board for using the tag for payment of fuel,” the official added.

At present, FASTags are accepted at over 490 national highway and 39 selected state highway toll plazas. According to the Union transport ministry, over six million FASTags have been issued until last month, with an overall cumulative electronic toll collection of over Rs 12,850 crore.

“ We are holding weekly meetings to oversee the progress of toll plazas converting to only FASTag lanes and expediting the sales of the tags. We have set a target for its completion by November 15 to ensure it is done before the December deadline...,” said the second official quoted above.

NHAI is also working towards creating a prepaid wallet for customers who do not want to link their bank-neutral FASTags to any bank account.

In a bid to track revenue generated from toll plazas, the transport ministry has also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the GST Network (GSTN) for integrating an E-Way Bill system with FASTag.

“From November onward, our database will also be linked to GST. They will get access to our data for mapping commercial vehicles,” the official added.