WHEN TAXI driver Suresh Kumar Jain visited the Tardeo Regional Transport Office (RTO) last week for renewal of his licence, he had to pay an additional ‘late payment’ fine in spite of being in time. He had to pay Rs 200 along with the renewal fee of Rs 500, only because the system generated a wrong receipt. “My last date for renewal was February 14. When the receipts generated asked me to pay Rs 700 (Rs 200 in addition to the Rs 500 fee), I was puzzled. Upon questioning, I was informed that the fee was being generated due to faults with the new software. As others had to pay too, I gave in,” he said. For the past two months, computer systems at some RTOs have not been able to work with the renewed software. Due to this, erroneous receipts with additional fees are being printed, causing inconvenience to taxi and rickshaw drivers.
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“More than 500 taxi drivers have complained of errors. Not only is the process slow, but they are being asked more fees for no reason. We had approached the transport office earlier too but received no positive response,” said Al Quadros, leader of Mumbai Taximen’s union, the largest taxi union in the city. While the software was upgraded in only two offices of Wadala and Tardeo, staff has complained of facing difficulties with its operations. With improper data migration of vehicles from previous software, improper fine and fees are being generated, they claim.
“As previous data of vehicle details and registrations have not been properly updated, we are facing problem in tracing the past records of the vehicles. A few essential powers to use the software remains with the Commissioner’s office or Union Road transport ministry, due to which our area of operation becomes limited. An effort is being made to correct the problem by February,” a senior RTO official said.
The software problem followed the hike in licence fees which met with strong opposition from drivers. With a five-fold increase in learning and permanent licence fees, drivers had claimed extortion. “Not even two months are over and we are paying the hiked fees for licences owing to software problems. To what extent does the government expect to loot taxi and rickshaw drivers? We will try to meet the transport commissioner next week to discuss the problem,” said K K Towari, leader of Swabhiman Taxi Sanghatana.
“I have written to the transport office, deeming the recovery of late payment fees as ‘criminal’ on their part. We have asked for a refund to drivers charged erroneously. Failing this, we will file for extortion against the department concerned,” Quadros said.