While India has started in all earnest the task of building a unique identity system for its citizens, it is disappointing that it is not doing something similar for the automotive vehicles and drivers. An interactive and comprehensive database (dbase) of all the vehicles and drivers is an absolute must for governance of our roads and traffic. It is simpler than the database of individuals and the government will not incur cost on it – it must make the owners of all vehicles and driving licences pay for it. This task, if taken seriously across the country, can be completed in a year. This is one of the components of the NatGrid (National Intelligence Grid) which is being built for national security. At least in case of transport dbase, there will not be any issue of privacy or snooping.
It is unfortunate that half-hearted and slovenly efforts are being made in different cities to develop this critical tool for traffic management, planning and productive investment in road infra structure & safety, discipline, security and many related issues. Often, turf battles take place between traffic police and RTO which need to be eliminated through agencies like unified urban transport authorities that are recommended by National Urban Transport Policy.
What data should vehicle/driver dbase capture?
It is possible to capture ‘actionable data’ for all vehicles and drivers in a comprehensive manner. All the existing vehicles besides all the vehicles that are added / sold / scrapped on a continuous basis must be covered. Same is true with driving licences. Each vehicle should have a record of current and past owners, regular drivers (inclusive of owners, family members as well as drivers) together with their driving license details including photographs. In addition, the correct and current address along with details of a reserved private parking space, if any, must be included. If this is properly captured, it will go a long way in achieving a high level of traffic and parking discipline at a very low cost – both in terms of money and time! It would be quite easy then to send the notices /challans to all the violators of traffic/parking rules (which can be captured by the CCTV systems) to the correct address by email/sms and, if necessary, by courier. It should also provide the type of insurance taken, its service provider and validity date of the policy. This data can be shared with insurance regulators to ensure that all the vehicles have minimum valid third party insurance. Needless to say, the data of accidents and indiscipline for all the drivers and vehicles can be captured, stored and retrieved at a flick.
How should the data be captured for the existing vehicles?
Capturing data from a very large no of vehicles is a difficult, complex and expensive exercise. But if a system is established in such a way that the data compiling staff works with various oil companies to obtain details on all the existing vehicles with the help of petrol pumps, it should not be difficult at all. For this purpose, a fee amount must be set – say, र1000 for all four wheelers and र500 for all two wheelers. Considering the work load, capacity of existing organisations such as RTO or traffic police, it would be desirable to create a special purpose vehicle like UID with an appropriate budget (or assign this work to UID itself). Once the system is designed and logistics have been worked out – which can be accomplished within six months – a limit of three months must be set within which each vehicle must provide information at several thousand booths to be established at petrol pumps across the country. The project should be given wide publicity through all media including television, and in all languages. Forms should be available on a website and downloading them must be made easy. A deadline must be given for submitting the information and in recognition of fulfilling the requirement the owner of a vehicle should be given a plastic adhesive tag which can be affixed on to a number plate. If a vehicle is found without the self adhesive plastic tag on the number plate after the expiry of the given date, it should warrant a penalty. If properly monitored, this project can be easily completed as every vehicle needs to fill fuel at least once a week.
Electronic access is necessary and very useful
The telephone numbers and email id of the owners/regular users/primary responsible persons must be captured. Further, the feasibility of ensuring that each vehicle has a pre paid account and an RFID or a device which can be read to collect tolls for flyovers and charge fines & parking fee (that can be directly debited to the user), is an area that must be looked into. Today, such critical user fee is not being collected simply for the lack of an efficient, reliable and honest system. This will vastly reduce the cost of compliance and increase the reach and effectiveness of the system.