If you read our front page story on Wednesday about how a man rammed into a queue of people at the Andheri RTO while taking a driving test resulting in the death of one, you might have wondered whether it was something waiting to happen.
It is an open secret that a large majority of those getting a driving licence in this city do not even undergo a formal driving test or have to write an exam to figure out whether they understand the traffic rules. Now, add this to the poor road infrastructure, the lawlessness on the streets and the terrible condition of our traffic signals, and it is a perfect recipe for a disaster.
In almost every civilised country, traffic rules are adhered to with the fear of god put into the minds of those driving a vehicle. In some countries in Europe, obtaining a driving licence is so expensive that it is considered a privilege and honour to have one. And since any violation of the traffic rules could result in the suspension of that licence, individuals guard it with their life. There are appropriate punishments for those violating the rules.
In Mumbai, however, the indiscipline on the streets is precisely because we do not adhere to any of the above. A driving licence is possibly the easiest government document to obtain. All you have to do is approach a tout at any of the RTO offices in the city, and a licence will be home delivered to you at an appropriate price.
The nexus between motor driving schools and the RTOs is a convenient marriage since the latter has made it compulsory for all licence aspirants to enrol at such schools. Therefore, there is no one accountable, and even top RTO officers are allegedly not questioned. It is a well-greased system.
It is no wonder then, that, a majority of the city’s residents with driving licences have little or no understanding of the traffic rules. At this rate, the hope for an accident-free city is diminishing by the day.