Days after mid-day reported (‘Want a bike licence? Wear a helmet: RTO’, May 28) that the city RTO had decided not to let applicants for permanent two-wheeler licences appear for the test if they don’t wear a helmet, we set out to find whether the rule was being implemented.
IN CAHOOTS? An agent is seen handing over the applicant’s documents to Assistant Inspector Sheetal Gosawi. Pics/Mohan Patil
Some time spent at the Phulenagar driving test ground did not only reveal that it was not, it also led to us unearthing a web of corruption spun by agents in cahoots with RTO inspectors. We learnt that, if you pay the right people, you can forget about helmets because the test itself becomes a formality.
Rules don’t matter: Several applicants were seen giving the test at the RTO without helmets
Chillingly, we also learnt that entertaining thoughts of exposing the inspector-agent nexus results in threats not only to your safety, but also of getting arrested under false pretexts.
Damage control: When the assistant inspector spotted the mid-day photographer, the agents were asked to clear out
When mid-day arrived at the test ground, we found that the agents were calling the shots and Assistant Inspector Sheetal Gosawi was being aided by them. We saw her allowing several two-wheeler riders to take the test without helmets. We also noticed that when Gosawi received the documents from the agent, she would sign them without as much as glancing at the driving test being given by the agent’s client.
Datta Ghule, of the Manali Auto Rickshaw Union said, “This is regular practice here. Commoners wait in the line but the ones who have good agents with them get a chance to appear for the test without having to queue up.
The agents and officers take at least Rs 75 from people appearing for the test to let them get away with things like not wearing a helmet. While the rule is that applicants need to get their two-wheelers, the agents provide two-wheelers too” mid-day observed that two Honda Activas, one grey and the other white, were being used by several applicants. It became clear to us later that these were being provided by the agents in lieu of some extra cash, which is reportedly shared with RTO officials.
When mid-day asked one agent why the applicants were not wearing helmets, he said, “What helmets? We take care of it all. If you need a licence, let me know. Just pay Rs 3,500 and I’ll get it done, no hidden charges.” Asked how could he manage all this despite the strict measures taken by RTO, he smirked and said, “This money reaches everyone, so they all keep quiet. What strictness are you talking about? Can’t you see how I am running the show? Don’t waste my time, do you need a license or not?”
As soon as the AI Gosawi spotted our photographer Mohan Patil clicking pictures, the nervousness became evident on her face. The agents were cleared out and she sent one of them to stop Patil. “What the hell do you think you’re doing here? Stop clicking pictures or these officers will call the police and have you arrested,” he told our photographer. When the photographer told the agent that he was just doing his job, the agent said, “Imagine all the agents beating you to a pulp and breaking your camera and then the inspector inside giving a statement to the police that you assaulted her. Go away!”
If anyone wants to get a permanent license, he or she needs to fill form no. 4. A photocopy of the learner's licence and 3 passport size photos need to be attached with this. A test fee of Rs 50 is charged, for which a receipt is issued. He then needs to get his own vehicle on the day of the test and also get a helmet in case of two-wheelers. RTO officials then observe the test and issue the licence if the driving is proper.
When an applicant goes through an agent for the permanent driving test at the Phulenagar RTO, he has to pay at least Rs 75. This money is taken illegally, no receipt is given, and it is basically a free pass for giving the test without wearing a helmet. The agent then gives some money and the applicant’s documents to the RTO inspector observing the test, who then signs off on them without looking at the applicant’s test.
The other side
When mid-day approached Deputy Regional Transport Officer Anil Valiv, he said, “We started strictly implementing the rule of wearing a helmet while appearing for a permanent licence test last week and if it is not been followed, it is a cause of concern. I will personally investigate the matter and if our officials are involved with agents, strict action will be taken. It is compulsory to wear a helmet while appearing for the permanent licence test and applicants should also follow the law strictly.”