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Sunday, December 20, 2015

Driving Licence Mafia:

Issuing driving licences and route permits to commercial vehicles is one of the most lucrative activities of government officials in Jammu and Kashmir. Driving test is held usually twice a week. Minimum of 400 to 600 driving licences (around 80% LMVs/two-wheelers and 20% heavy, hill and other commercial categories) are issued every month by each ARTO in 18 districts of Kashmir and Jammu. Numbers double or three times in principle districts of Srinagar and Jammu. Those who pass the driving test are only 10% and they are subjected to untold miseries. Others obtain these licences through "agents" who almost run their offices from the RTOs/ARTOs premises in full knowledge of people and Police. Currently the rates for a commercial licence (on which you can also get a government job as Driver) are Rs 18,000 to Rs 20,000 if you are a fresher and Rs 10,000 to Rs 12,000 if your LMV license is three year old. Rs 3,000 to Rs 5,000 is charged for each LMV licence. At most of the places only a still photograph is captured rather than a video of the driving test. In short, an ARTO's ill-gotten income per month is Rs 20 lakh to Rs 25 lakh and an RTO's income goes upto Rs 50 lakh and Rs one Crore a month. Obviously this whole business cannot run without the participation and ashirwaad of the Minister incharge. Ironically, both Transport Commissioner Mr Khateeb and Secretary Transport Kifayat Hussain Rizvi are known to be meticulously honest officials. A couple of years back, our deceased colleague Izhar Wani's wife was asked to pay Rs 10,000 for transfer of ownership in RTO office Srinagar. One of our colleagues working with NDTV went to Chief Secretary Iqbal Khanday and narrated her tale. Khandey pleaded he was helpless. Chief Secretary as well as Minister of Transport Choudhary Ramzan did their best to dump the RTO as deadwood or at least shift him to some other posting. Both failed. Instead, then Chief Minister Omar Abdullah granted one year of extension to the RTO on his retirement. Because of this non-cadre officials brought from Mechanical Engineering department for deputation of 6 months continue as ARTOs for 8 and 10 years as they know how to share this 'maal' with the 'maalik'!


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