Irfan Ahmed, a senior citizen, had to visit the Regional Transport Office (RTO) thrice in order to get his new car registered and complete other documentation work. He says that it is very difficult for a person to get his work done at the RTO amid a number of agents who act as proxies for different people by charging Rs. 1,500 and above depending on the work to be completed.
Despite the Motor Vehicle Department’s (MVD) mandatory instruction that “no agents” are allowed to enter the premises of the department and that any person approaching the RTO for registration, driving license, fitness certificate for the vehicle, etc. should only carry one form at a time, the rule is being flouted by agents who submit 5-10 applications at a time and get their work done. Solely due to these reasons, customers are forced to stand in queues for hours in order to get their work done.
The rule was made mandatory due to the increasing complaints from customers that the agents were interfering with the activities at the office and this was promoting corruption. Sadhana Anil, a professor, complained that hostile officers and lack of user-friendly websites help these agents to thrive.
“Even though the so-called ‘agents’ have been prohibited from the RTO premises, the driving school instructors disguise as agents and get the work done,” she added.
Clarifying about the authorised agents who are allowed in the RTO, C.J. Paulson, Regional Transport Officer, Kottayam, said, “The representatives of authorised motor dealers, Akshaya centers and Jansevekendras are the only authorised agents who are provided a login id on the website and are allowed to enter the RTO and submit the papers to the officials after completing the online documentation.”
The High Court had also passed an order, according to which any person could authorise an agent to get the documentation work done for the owner’s vehicle, if it is inconvenient for him to come to the RTO. However, an authorisation letter is mandatory in such situations. The agents have made use of this loophole and enter the RTO premises claiming that the vehicles owners have authorised them to do so.
Despite the assurance from the authorities, the public complain that the interference from these agents is still prevalent and those who cannot afford these agents have to stand in long queues to get their work done at the RTO.
Mr. Paulson, however, argued that driving school instructors are strictly prohibited from the department and that the department has implemented stringent action against those who are caught without appropriate identity cards. The department has also included this direction in the official website for the information of the
However, Rajan Thomas, who had recently bought a luxury car, says that he had to pay Rs. 2,500 to the agent who agreed to get the registration of his vehicle done in one day.
“I had planned a trip where I wanted to take my new car. Unfortunately, I got busy and could not get the registration done. I only had one day left when I approached the RTO for getting my vehicle registered. I stood there till afternoon right from 9 a.m. but things did not seem to work. An agent approached me saying he will get the work done and I just need to pay him some amount. He charged me Rs. 2,500 as it was a luxury car and I had to support this unfortunate act as I didn’t have enough time,” he says.
The RTO officials are of the opinion that the public also plays a role in promoting these agents because no one is ready to spend time at RTO offices to get their job done. Kudumbasree members have also been deputed to the RTO to help people who have a problem in filling the applications. But they say that the Kudumbasree members only receive a maximum of 40 or 50 applications a day, when the total number of applications received in the department would be about 500.
Hari Shanker, instructor at the Malliackal Driving School, refused these allegations and commented, “ We are not allowed in the RTO premises and we say this to the customers also. But there are many people who still approach us saying that they are ready to pay whatever we want to in order to get their documentation done.”
He added that nowadays even the officials do not ask for any authorization letter.
Main photograph by Dhruvaraj S. via Flickr.
By Vidya Nair