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Reform this licence to…kill

It is welcome news: Minister of Road Transport Nitin Gadkari is focusing on streamlining the system of issuing driving licences.

Nitin Gadkari points to the present chaotic system of RTOs administering the testing and issue of driving licences: 1000 RTOs issue 1.15 crore licences a year. That’s 40 licences per working day. This naturally precludes any serious attention to having a scientific system of testing the capabilities for driving.

As was so graphically pointed out by the Tamil film Indian, there is pervasive corruption in the RTOs across the country. It is popular belief that one can get a driving licence without demonstrating one’s ability to drive. It should not be surprising that the toll on the roads is humongous - there were is 2.24 lakh accidents during 2012.

Rigorous regime for testing in UK, USA...

The system is in contrast to the rigorous procedure adopted in UK and USA. In these countries a written test is mandatory and the system is elaborate to test the driving skills, including theoretical knowledge of road signs and on road behaviour. In contrast, with crowded applicants, there has been little time to test effectively the skills in India. There is also the problem of highly congested roads in metros and large cities that are devoid of any large space for testing driving skills.

The change mooted involves use of IT to test skills, and of test tracks. We have been suggesting the closer involvement of the automobile companies. Large automobile companies like Maruti, Tata Motors, and Hyundai Motors should set up driving schools, at least one in each of the 600 odd districts. Ashok Leyland made a beginning a few decades ago by setting up the first intensive driving school at Namakkal, but did not expand  much....


Case for involving the auto and oil cos

The prosperous automobile companies, the oil companies and the booming auto component sector, should be involved in this vital issue of ensuring safety on roads. It should be possible for these and tyre companies to commit the mandatory two per cent profits for large companies as part of their corporate social responsibility to focus on road safety.

Gadkari has started well in drawing attention to an area which has been contributing to humongous misery. Taking advantage of the information technology, it should be possible to attend to training and testing for driving skills.

In this, the government could involve the private sector in a big way. I have pointed to the tremendous improvements made in the issue of passport by involving TCS. Similarly, it should involve large automobile companies, component manufacturers, tyre companies and the oil companies in allotting them specific districts for undertaking the responsibility.

I do hope the Modi government will attend to this with speed.

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