State cracks the whip on drivers, but RTOs still lack test tracks
The driving tracks at the Andheri and Tardeo RTOs have been in limbo for several years now
While the state government is planning to suspend the licences of errant drivers for three months, the Transport Department on its part has been unable to start driving tracks at Andheri and Tardeo Regional Transport Offices (RTOs) owing to red tape and legal hassles.
The Andheri RTO, which underwent a major makeover for its Rs 15-crore building, hasn’t got a driving test track yet. File pic
The Andheri RTO — which underwent a major makeover for its Rs 15-crore building — hasn’t got a driving test track yet. As per the plan, the developer was supposed to construct a three-storey RTO building along with a test track on the five-acre ground opposite the current structure.
“As of now it is stuck in a legal tangle and we have no idea when the driving test track will come up,” said an RTO official.
This track was to come up in 2013, but nothing has happened since then. Presently, there are unwanted auto rickshaws and four-wheelers that are dumped on one part of the ground, while there are union offices right in the middle of the ground, along with parked vehicles. People applying for driving licences are made to drive at one corner of the ground. Often, these vehicles are from driving schools.
The private developer was to construct three government offices — Andheri RTO, Maharashtra Sadan in Delhi and a state guesthouse called High Mount at Malabar Hill. Currently, the Enforcement Directorate is probing an R800-crore money laundering case related to Maharashtra Sadan.
The issue with the Tardeo RTO — the oldest transport office in the country — seems to be that of an inter-department tussle. This RTO, originally built as a stable, was undergoing redevelopment, and the ground for the test track was also levelled, but has barely been covered with paver blocks.
“The ongoing work is very slow and this is surely causing problems for people coming here,” said an officer from the Tardeo RTO. As of now, the paver blocks have been partly laid on the six-acre ground, with sand scattered all over the place, but there is no sight of an artificial driving test track.
These tracks are supposed to ensure that people seeking driving licences are thoroughly checked before they are issued to them. Once a person is issued a learner’s licence by an RTO, he goes to a driving school or learns to drive on his own. Finally it is the RTO officers who have to check the skills of motorists coming there before licences are issued.
Daily, around 750 people come for tests at the three RTOs in Mumbai. RTO officials agreed that presently, people coming to these centres are made to drive less than 50 metres before a licence is granted to them. Sources said that due to lack of land across the state, test tracks cannot be easily developed. Presently there are three driving test tracks at Nashik, Kolhapur and Satara — two more have been planned at Baramati and Nanded.
When mid-day contacted Maharashtra Transport Minister Diwakar Raote, he said: “We are creating international standard driving test tracks across Maharashtra. The problem is lack of funds and so we are getting agencies that have the required expertise. Only those who pass with 100 per cent accuracy will get driving licences.” When asked about the Andheri and Tardeo RTOs, he added: “I cannot state the reasons for individual test tracks at RTOs facing problems.”