Riding an AK-47

In Punjab,it’s not enough to have a swanky car. The number plate is a status symbol too.

Written by Varinder Bhatia | New Delhi | Published:March 31, 2013 1:12 am

In Punjab,it’s not enough to have a swanky car.

The number plate is a status symbol too.

Last month,a 38-year-old farmer in Hoshiarpur’s Katowal village made an intriguing vanity purchase. Kulbir Singh paid Rs 7 lakh for a registration number plate that has AK-47 on it; it’s the number for an Activa scooter,worth Rs 50,000,bought in his wife’s name. “I discussed it with my brothers who live abroad and they told me that money was not a problem. I should just go for it. I plan to later transfer the number to an SUV,which I shall be buying shortly,” he says. There were 16 bidders for the registration number at the auction held on March 19,says district transport officer,PS Gill.

The aspiration for shiny new cars extends to unique number plates in ­Punjab,where people pay staggering amounts to get a number of their choice. In December 2012,a Chandigarh-based builder Amarjit Singh paid Rs 26.05 lakh,the highest ever,while bidding for the registration number CH-01-AP-0001 for his Rs 1-crore plus Mercedes S class. The previous highest bid was of Rs 17 lakh for the number CH-01-AN-0001.

Chandigarh farmer Narinder Singh Shergill was the first to break the “Rs 10 lakh barrier” in 2010,when he purchased CH-01-AC-0001. “I always wanted to own the number plate 0001. Since I had bought a new SUV and my land was acquired by the government and I got good money,I thought I must make my dream come true. My initial budget was Rs 3-4 lakh,but during the auction,it became a question of pride and I bid Rs 10 lakh. Though my wife,who is a teacher,objected,I managed to pacify her,” he says. Prominent people with a fetish for number plates include lawyer Abha Rathore,wife of convicted former DGP of Haryana,SPS Rathore,who paid Rs 9 lakh for the registration number CH01-AM-0001 for her Mercedes. Cricketer Yuvraj Singh also purchased CH-03-Y-0012 and CH-03-1212 in 2006,since his birthday falls on December 12.

Baba Balbir Singh,the head of Baba Budha Dal Gurdwara,Patiala,possesses both AK-47 and AK-56 number plates for his two-wheelers. While he paid Rs 3.1 lakh for the AK-47 plate,he got the AK-56 at a reserve price of Rs 10,000 since there was no competitor. “Singhs have always been known to possess arms,and AK-47 and AK-56 are the most precious weapons to own. Since we cannot own these weapons,at least we should own the registration numbers,” he says.

The registration and licensing authorities invite applications from people. The number for which there is more than one application is put up for auction. Bids are announced by interested applicants and the highest bidder gets the number. “For the past few years,the Registration and Licensing Authority in Chandigarh has got at least Rs 60-80 lakh revenue from each auction. Generally,two-three auctions take place in a year,” says Jairam,Registering and Licensing Officer,Chandigarh.

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