I first got my driving license in 1992. I was 19 years young then. This was in Indore, a sleepy little town compared to metropolis I now live in – Mumbai.
1992, I don’t remember if I ever went for a driving test or any learning license. I was recommended an agent by my friends and I got license delivered at my home. My driving license came with a 20 year term – expiry in August’2012.
This year in August, I had to make a choice. And I had 2 options to choose from :
A) Go to Indore RTO, get a NOC from them and apply for renewal in Mumbai
B) Apply for a fresh license in Mumbai and get it in 2 months time.
I choose the latter – for obvious reasons – location proximity and supposedly ease of process.
My journey which began in August’2012 had many interesting learnings which I want to share. I went online (http://www.mahatranscom.in/licence.aspx) and downloaded form 1 & form 2. First milestone achieved. Little did I knew that my nightmare was about to begin
There is no mechanism to submit form online. Maharashtra government decided to have one way communication, where you can download form, but not submit it online. So you are not saved the trouble of going to nearest RTO and find your way through the maze called RTO. I decided to go to RTO myself and try my luck.
I was welcomed with a barrage of agents the moment I landed at RTO. For a moment I thought myself as musaddi from office office trying to find sense in this madness. There is no enquiry office at RTO. So you have to ask agents/touts who double up as enquiry office giving you information which suits them and their business interests.
After trying for 15 min, I finally got to speak with a officer. He asked me to fill up the form, line up and submit the form. Submission window is a mad rush, where they do not even acknowledge your presence if you are not an agent.
I had a ongoing battle with my watch and hence,I gave up my zeal to try things for self and decided to seek help from an agent. I was fast tracked to a window, and within a span of 10 min, my picture was clicked, thumb prints taken, digital signature recorded and pronto you walk out with a receipt for driver license.
I had the privilege of paying Rs. 500 as against Rs. 50 official fee for learning license. What about others who found this fee to be too steep.
In a way the entire system was meant to conspire against a common man. Unwelcome reception, lack of enquiry, touts and agents pretending to be only saviour, and complex rules and practices making things just too difficult for common man to gather courage to try doing things on his own.
System conspires you to be corrupt and bribe.
After a gap of 10 days I got my learning license and was asked to appear for driving test today. I reached there around lunch, and was welcomed by the same swarm of agents.
Fortunately my agent was quick to tell them this client is already taken.
There was a long queue to drive 4 wheeler. I was given a separate entrance to jump the queue and a inspector asked me to drive my car. I barely put the ignition on, and he had already passed my papers. What if I was a novice and had money to pay for the Inspector.
Next was 2 wheeler test. A Kinetic Honda was available for rent – Rs. 30 as rent for a small drive lasting 2 sec, in a complete rubbled road full of bumps and rocks. This was not an effort to check driving in adverse situations, but the road was dug up by BMC and RTO had no funds to repair it. So it was a mud track made by default not design.
In 15 min I walked out with a piece of paper which showed that I can drive vehicles anywhere in India. Total official fee for this is Rs. 262.70. What I had to pay was Rs. 1700.
Am I happy that I got a license, am I sad that I bribed my way through the system, or am I indifferent ?
I am at loss to explain what feelings should I have on this experience. But I want to ask this question to many people reading this blog – this artificial cost escalation – imagine paying Rs. 2200 for a license as against official fee of 300 – isn’t it making our country weaker.
Even if you have a resolve to do things the correct way- you need to have all the time in this world. So you choose a cheaper currency – Time or money.
I am sure the same process is across all basic licensing windows – driving, shop, offices, tax, etc etc. Is it not a resolve by government to create archaic systems which de motivate common man and catalyze touts and corrupt practices.
If we believe that things should move fast, it just does not start with common man making a resolve, it is the entire machinery to gear up for such a resolve – without which every such initiative by common man will end in bribery and corruption.