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.

Assistant Inspector Sheetal Gosawi.
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.

What helmet?
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?”

Pulping threats
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!”