Saturday, July 14, 2007

good motoring
Efficient touts
H.Kishie Singh

The Registration and Licencing Authority (R&LA) has always been a pain in the neck. A visit to get your licence renewed, to pay vehicle tax or to get your car registered can be a humiliating and exasperating experience. Humiliating because of the rudeness of the staff. They will happily tell you that if you donít like the service or standing in line, you should have stayed home. And exasperating because you are sent from one window to the other, made to wait for no good reason, and the final result is that you are obliged to go back the next day and the next. Three or four trips to renew a licence which is a 30-minute job. This means that senior citizens, physically challenged and office-goers have to reserve three to four days for a simple job. There is a reason for this behaviour by the staff. If they discourage the public, it will be obliged to deal with touts.

Here is an incident that happened with me. I drove into the parking lot opposite the R&LA office in Sector 17. As I was paying the parking fee and before I could get out of the car, a man approached me. "Good morning sahib, what brings you here?" asked the man. "I am here to renew my driverís licence", I told him. "And I am here to help you" he says. "Please wait in your car." He pulled out his cell phone and gave some instructions. "Sir, I need two of your photographs. I will get your licence for you." I thought for a moment and reluctantly handed over two photographs. "Please allow me to get you a soft drink while you wait," he said.

Just about then a man came along with a Red Cross file and the papers required to renew a licence, all neatly filed, and says to me: "Just sign at the dotted marks on this file, Sir. There is nothing more for you to do. And please give Rs 500. Kindly come back one week from now. And, so sorry sahib, then you will have go inside to be photographed!"

As simple as that. I did not have to even get out of my car. It was drive-in service. A kind of home delivery that would make a pizza parlour envious.

I returned a week later and sure enough my file was complete with all formalities. "Go to window number 8 and pay the fee. Then have your photograph taken and give me the receipt, Sir. I will deliver the licence to your house". I went to window number 8 and I was through in minutes. I have been to window number 8 on many occasions before and always the babu has found some fault with the documents.

As I entered the R&LA office, there was a rougesí gallery at the entrance. Mug shots and a warning that these men were agents. "They have given statement that they will not visit this office again. This is for public information, please". True, they do not visit the office. They operate from the parking lot. The touts work with efficiency and, obviously, it is in connivance with the staff. Why canít the staff work honestly and efficiently?

A few days later I went to pay road tax for my Gypsy. The system is mind-boggling and could only have been designed by a bureaucrat. Its chief objective is to harass and waste hours of time. Here is how it works. You go to the R&LA office in Sector 17. Stand in line to get your forms and file cover. Having got them, you go to the window upstairs. The babu tells you: "Form number XX is missing". Go back downstairs, stand in line and collect the missing form. Ok, file complete, back upstairs. The same babu tells you to go to the treasury branch which is a kilometre away, near the parade ground. The babu here at the treasury branch gives you a contact where you will have to pay money. This can only be done at the SBI branch in Bank Square, at the other end of Sector 17. Stand in line again and pay your money.

Happy motoring!