Mumbai: Sorry, we are 'consultants', say RTO agents

RTO agents are taking the Transport commissioner head on and have formed a union at the Andheri transport office; claim they are representatives of vehicle owners and will “fight the administration” as a combined force

What's in a name, asked the Bard. Everything, say touts and agents at the regional transport offices (RTOs) across the state. Taking the Transport commissioner’s crackdown on them head on, RTO agents formally constituted a union comprising members across the state, to “fight” the administration as a combined force.

The union claims they represent vehicle owners at the RTO and, hence, are not ‘agents’
The union claims they represent vehicle owners at the RTO and, hence, are not ‘agents’

Ever since Mahesh Zagade, the new Transport commissioner, took over in December last year, he has cracked the whip on agents in his attempt to rid the RTOs in the state of them. Zagade’s concentrated efforts included banning the entry of the agents on the premises, and maintaining register of all those who enter the RTO premises in order to identify agents.

Agents outside the Andheri RTO. Agents are currently not allowed inside RTO premises. File pic for representation
Agents outside the Andheri RTO. Agents are currently not allowed inside RTO premises. File pic for representation

This had irked the agents as well as Transport Minister Diwakar Raote, who had questioned Zagade as to how he could define who an ‘agent’ is. According to department sources, the cold war between Zagade and Raote has reached such an extent that the two have not spoken, even at official functions.

Name game
Sensing the political opportunity, the local unit of the Shiv Sena sprung into action and mobilised agents into forming one entity. Sena’s Jaywant Parab led the efforts. The union of RTO agents, called Vahan Malak Chalak Pratinidhi Sangh (Vehicle Owners Drivers Representative Association), was inaugurated at the Andheri RTO yesterday.

It was at this function that the union asked all agents to refer to themselves as consultants. There are nearly 1 lakh such agents in the state, and, according to the newly formed union, 82,000 have already signed up as members. Baba Shinde, the president of the association, claimed that it was only because of Zagade that no classified working-class like agents had come together.

“Now we will fight against the administration with a combined force. The word ‘agent’ has a different connotation and it doesn’t sound good. Hence, we have asked our agents to identify themselves as ‘consultants’. We are representatives of vehicle owners, at the RTO; so we are not agents,” Shinde told mid-day.

According to the union leader, “We are some 1 lakh agents across the state in the 52 RTOs, (including deputy RTOs). The aim of the union is to coordinate with agents across the state, sitting here outside the Andheri RTO. With one phone call, we can be in touch with all the agents across Maharashtra. We already have 82,000 members.”

The next time the Transport department seeks to act against any agent in Mumbai or the state, this union will use its collective strength against the administration. Presently, touts are not allowed to enter the RTO premises but they manage to operate from outside by coordinating with colluding RTO officials. However, when mid-day spoke to Transport Commissioner Mahesh Zagade, he refused to comment on the matter.

All in the name
This is not the first time someone has attempted a makeover through nomenclature. In 2009, brokers from the real estate industry had come together and wanted to call themselves property consultants. They felt the term ‘broker’ derogatory. However, this endeavour seems to have failed.

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