Mumbai: RTO touts make a comeback in just ten days
If there are two things that touts at the city RTOs seem to have no dearth of, they are resilience and resourcefulness. For, barely ten tumultuous days since the state Transport department launched a massive crackdown on illegal agents at RTOs across the state braving protests from the touts and even some anger from applicants the agents have managed to make a comeback.
An agent’s makeshift office outside the Andheri RTO
Cracking the whip
Following a missive from Transport Commissioner Mahesh Zagade, the Transport department had begun cracking the whip against illegal agents, who have been ruling the roost at RTOs for decades, on January 19.
A suspected tout speaks to applicants
The campaign had largely been successful and the roads outside the three RTOs in the city Andheri, Tardeo and Wadala which used to be lined with the agents’ stalls, remained devoid of them.
In fact, RTO officials had patted their backs just this Wednesday and claimed that the illegal agents were not being allowed to enter the premises or carry out their business.
They stated that 8,000 people had been registering their names every day in logbooks kept at the three RTOs before entering a practice made mandatory to keep the touts out.
mid-day has found, however, that the illegal agents have set up their offices again albeit on a smaller scale especially outside the Andheri RTO, where they have considerable clout.
The agents’ makeshift offices consist of a plastic chair and wooden stool, and they roam about carrying forms and other papers related to the RTO. A few work out of the parapets of nearby buildings while others sit on their two-wheelers.
They carry the forms and papers in their hand and move about, meeting auto and taxi drivers and other people visiting the RTOs to get new driving licences, renewing them or for registering their vehicles. “The staff-to-client ratio is skewed. It is very difficult for us to prevent these illegal agents from entering the premises and carrying out their business there.
Still, we have placed our men at the gate, who have been asked to check everyone entering the building and weed out touts,” said an RTO official from Andheri.
Piling on pressure
Following the January 19 crackdown, the illegal agents have been preventing smooth operations inside the RTOs. For at least two days, in fact, they stopped auto and taxi drivers from entering and even hindered the driving licence application process.
As a fallout of this, a huge group of auto and taxi drivers surrounded RTO officers at Andheri yesterday, stating that they were finding it difficult to get work done because of the huge queues every day.
Sources said their main grouse was that due to the huge number of people coming in and the lack of staff in the absence of the agents, the drivers were failing to renew the licences, permits, and vehicle fitness certificates in time, affecting their daily business.
Several auto rickshaws were also parked on the premises. A senior Transport department official said, “These illegal agents are doing everything they can to put pressure on us. This is bound to happen and they will continue to resist.”
RTO officials from Andheri claim that they are not allowing any agents or unauthorised people to enter the premises, and that the forms are easily available to applicants.
They said they will file police complaints against any illegal agent that they catch, and added that they have asked taxi and auto unions and motor driving schools to ask their representatives to wear ID cards at the RTO.