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Pune RTO's smartcard initiative a failure without handheld readers

Seven years after the RTO began issuing smartcards for licences and RCs, it still has not procured any card readers to render the data on them

It has been seven years since the Pune Regional Transport Office (RTO) began issuing smartcards for driving licences and vehicle registration certificates (RC) to bring much-needed speed and transparency to its operations. However, with the RTO’s failure to procure smartcard readers that can render the data on the cards, the move has proved to be just a half-baked effort so far.

smartcard
Not worth their plastic: Until the RTO procures card readers, the smartcards issued for driving licences and RCs are no better than their older paper counterparts. File pic

“We have been following up with the state transport commissioner for the procurement of the smart card readers. There are some technical issues like the operative software that have to be dealt with. Only then will we will be able to use the smartcard readers effectively,” said Jitendra Patil, the Pune regional transport officer.

Since March 7, 2007, the RTO has been issuing smartcards to citizens under the state’s e-governance programme aimed at using Information Technology for better and speedy work. On an average, 3,100 smartcards are issued by the RTO every day —2,500 driving licences and 600 vehicle RCs.

In theory, the chips on the smartcards will allow RTO and traffic department officials to verify licence and registration details on the spot. This would help the officials to nab criminals who steal vehicles and forge registration documents quicker.

But for the smartcards to be of any use at all, the RTO and the traffic police need handheld smartcard readers that can make sense of the data on the chips.

Currently, the smartcards are no improvement at all on their older paper counterparts, since the RTO has not managed to acquire a single device in all these years. If anything, they are simply an extra burden on the common man’s pockets. For seven years and counting, citizens have had to shell out Rs 400 extra at the RTO, including Rs 212 for the card itself, and Rs 150 for the data to be transferred to the web portal. Applicants who want the card to be delivered to their doorstep have to cough out another Rs 50.

By the RTO’s own estimation, at least 1,200 card-reading devices are required in the city to make optimal use of the system. The traffic department alone would need around 1,000 devices, while the RTO would need about 50, keeping a standby stock of the remaining 150.

Rajendra Kamire, senior police inspector (traffic and planning), said, “If we get the smartcard readers, it will be a boon for the department, as we will be able to check the card and see whether the registration details are authentic or not, helping us catch vehicles with fake details.”

Patil said that apart from the traffic police, the RTO needs the devices as well, especially for its four flying squads that patrol highways and city roads to conduct random checks on vehicles and drivers.

How it works

Every smartcard has a chip with all the details provided during registration, such as registration number, chassis and engine number, road tax details for the RC, and driver’s name, address, issue and expiration date for the driving licence. With the help of a smartcard reader, officers can read the details on the chip and identify whether the information is accurate or not.

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