Illegal agents create speed bump outside Andheri RTO
Touts block clear passage, enter the office premises unauthorised and even assault the staff; however, RTO officials say the shift to the new building in March will put an end to the menace
If you thought getting your licence renewed was hard enough in this city, it is now next to impossible to even enter the Andheri Regional Transport Office (RTO) with ease, due to the illegal agents swarming right at the entrance. During the day, touts offer to speed up the licence application and renewal processes for a fee while disrupting vehicular and pedestrian traffic.
The footpaths outside the Andheri RTO are covered with temporary shanty-like structures with numbered wooden tables and metal chairs inside. In these makeshift shelters, agents often lure thousands of people coming to the RTO to get a new driving license, or register their vehicles. The menace is so intrusive, that these agents also enter the offices of junior grade staffs, the computer centre, testing tracks and even officers’ cabins with ease.
Over a period of time it has been found that the agents are also involved in arguments and physically assault RTO staff there, while the senior officials from RTO and the Transport department are mute spectators.
Assault on RTO staff
One such incident occurred on December 6, when an illegal agent named D Shirke assaulted Sachin Kotapkar, an RTO license officer after the latter asked him to leave his cabin, which he had entered without permission. Explaining the series of events, an RTO official said, “Kotapkar was inside the confidential cabin when Shirke entered and demanded changes to be made to a document. Shirke was asked to leave the room as outsiders are not permitted, and an argument ensued,” said a RTO official. When Kotapkar came out, Shirke allegedly assaulted the RTO officer by pushing him against the wall and beating him. “A police complaint has been filed on this issue by the RTO officers and things will be dealt with strictly,” said V More, transport commissioner.
RTO officers claim that they have written several letters to the civic body to remove these illegal structures constructed right on the roadside at the entrance of the RTO.
“We have been telling the BMC to remove these illegal structures, but it hardly happens. Also even if they do remove them, the agents are back within a couple of hours. Strict action needs to be taken,” said a RTO official. However, BMC officials claim that they remove the structures every now and then. “I will check the current status and if the need arises, stringent action will be taken,” said V V Shankarwar, assistant municipal commissioner, K/West ward.
Meanwhile, RTO officials are hopeful about opening the new three-floor building, which is expected to be inaugurated by March 2013. Since the RTO is on the ground floor of the building, illegal agents come and go as they please, a practice which officials feel, would be curbed in the new office building. “We expect to shift into the new building by March. Here the menace of illegal agents will be less, as there are CCTV cameras and other systems that will disallow them from entering,” said another RTO official.
Sources said that fans, lights and furniture have already been installed, while the only thing remaining is the testing track that would require them to vacate the existing barracks. Currently, the 2 acre test ground is in poor condition, with bumpy tracks. “There will be proper driving tracks, with speed breakers, signals, slopes and everything required for a testing track,” said an RTO official.
Meanwhile the Public Works Department (PWD), which is overseeing the building construction, claimed that there is no such deadline.
H Pawar, chief engineer, PWD said, “I will have to check on the development of this building”.
Also in construction are an underground parking lot, a subway and a road connecting to SV Road. In 2006, the PWD selected K S Chamankar as the developer to construct the proposed building on a 7,000 sq metre plot at the initial cost of Rs 15.52 crore under the Slum Rehabilitation Scheme.