Delhi’s transport offices are back to being what they always were — dens of rampant corruption. This is in contrast to the somewhat graft-free environment that was brought in by the Aam Aadmi Party during its 49-day-long stint in government. Any visit to these transport offices now show how ground level corruption is making a mockery of Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s claims of giving Delhi a graft-free government in his second term.
The sign outside the zonal transport office in Mayur Vihar Phase I may be warning people against dealing with touts, but the place was teeming with groups of touts who were roaming around freely within the premises. Hand-in-glove with the transport officers and their subordinates, these touts can even organise licences for non-drivers if the amount is right. While the cost of getting a licence made after following the proper procedure is Rs 360, the services of these touts can be “availed of” for anything between Rs 3,000 and Rs 4,000, or more depending on one’s need. Sanjay, a tout, while asking for Rs 1,500 upfront and Rs 1,500 after the licence is made, said brazenly, “You don’t have to drive for the test if you don’t want to. I will make sure that you pass the test and are given a valid driver’s licence.” Anil, another tout, quoted a rate of Rs 4,000 for the same purpose.
“Two of my friends got their driving licences made despite failing the test. They had paid the same broker Rs 3,500 each,” said Aishani, a resident of New Delhi.
Hand-in-glove with the transport officers and their subordinates, these touts can even organise licences for non-drivers if the amount is right. While the cost of getting a licence made after following the proper procedure is Rs 360, the services of these touts can be “availed of” for anything between Rs 3,000 and Rs 4,000, or more depending on one’s need.
Neeraj Khurana, a businessman who was visiting the Mayur Vihar transport office, narrated his experience: “I was here to renew my driving licence which expired in 2011. The officer concerned said that records from before 2011 have been erased because of the digitisation of driving licences and that I would have to apply for a driver’s licence from scratch. This means that I will have to get a learner’s licence again and then get a fresh permanent licence made. But after I left his office, a tout approached me openly and offered to get everything done for Rs 3,500.”
When asked why no action was taken against such illegal practices, DCP (East) Bhairon Singh Gurjar said, “We take action whenever there is a complaint against them. However, if they are roaming freely within the transport offices, these establishments need to ensure that proper action is taken against them. There is only so much we can do from outside.”
The Motor Licensing Officer at Mayur Vihar Phase I Zonal Transport Office declined to comment on the matter.
According to Vikas (name changed), the owner of a fleet of taxis in Dwarka, the situation is far worse at the Burari Regional Transport Office. The Burari office is the official hub for giving clearances and permits to commercial vehicles. “It is a known and accepted fact that we have to deal with touts. If we do things on our own, we are harassed by officers who deny clearances even if there is simple scratch on the vehicle. While it may take four or five trips to the office for the required clearances using proper methods, a tout can get us a clearance in two hours,” Vikas said. “There was some improvement in affairs when the Kejriwal government first came, but now things are back to the way they were.”
A visit to the Burari office showed an abundance of touts loitering outside the gates and offering “to help” visitors for a price. Outside the RTO premises, a number of photocopy and stationery shops double up as makeshift offices for these brokers. Mubarak, a mini-truck owner, claimed that touts had always maintained a stranglehold here, and there was no change in the recent past. “We have to come here for fitness certificates every year and are made to jump through a lot of hoops to get clearances. Even though the touts are not of much help when it comes to legwork, their contacts inside the office make sure that our work gets done on time. If not done through them, it can take longer to get our work done. It is the mostly illiterates like me who get work done through these touts as we are unaware of the procedures,” he said.
A tout in one of photocopy shops told this correspondent, who had not revealed his identity, that he would charge Rs 1,500 more for a fitness certificate than what it would actually cost, but guaranteed that the work would be done in a day. He also added, without even asking to see the “vehicle” for once, that it would pass the fitness test. “It just needs to be painted to look presentable and I will take care of everything else,” he confidently asserted.
The touts at the transport offices are not the only ones who give such assurances. The various driving schools dotting the city claim that they can deliver the same result. A driving training school in Mayur Vihar Phase I asked for Rs 2,500 to get a driving licence done within two weeks. Another driving school in Mayur Vihar Phase II asked for Rs 3,000 for a licence. In both cases, they said that the applicant need not appear for a driving test.
A traffic police office at Daryaganj said, “Although we don’t have any way to prove who got their licence through what means, it is safe to assume that a driver who has no basic knowledge of road signs and lane driving will be a constant risk to other motorists and pedestrians.”
Satish Upadhyay, Delhi BJP president, said, “We are aware of the situation and get many grievances from transporters, auto drivers etc., who allege harassment at these offices. Corruption remains as rampant as it once was, and the Aam Aadmi Party government merely seems to be carrying forward the legacy of its predecessor. Merely speaking out against corruption is not enough.”
When asked about this, Nagender Sharma, media adviser to CM Arvind Kejriwal said, “The only way to deal with this is to strengthen the Anti Corruption Bureau. These dalals (brokers) had disappeared during the AAP government’s 49-day regime here. It has returned to its earlier state since then. Our anti-corruption helpline 1031 was also scrapped prematurely after it began in April. The Central government’s insistence on putting a person of their interest at the helm in ACB has contributed to this overall decline.”