From the Viewsroom

Licensed to kill?

R Srinivasan | Updated on January 20, 2018

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Getting a driving licence in India is too easy

Last week, the Regional Transport Office in Bhopal disclosed that only 3 per cent of the applicants for a driving licence in Bhopal were rejected. The reasons for rejection — whether the paperwork was not in order, or the applicants failed either the written or the practical test — were not disclosed, but it would be a safe bet that a bulk of the failures were for the first two reasons, and not for actually being unable to drive properly. It is very easy getting a driving licence in India. Dangerously easy. In fact, a global students’ survey some years ago ranked India as the second easiest place in the world to get a driving licence, after Mexico City. In Mexico, anybody over the age of 18 can get a driving licence, simply by declaring that they can drive!

The system in India is, on paper, much tougher, but in reality, is corrupted to the point of meaninglessness. The average failure rate in driving tests in the country is only 3-7 per cent. A system of corrupt officials and touts and agents ensure that, provided the right persons are paid off, anybody can get a licence. In Mumbai, for instance, two of the three RTOs had a zero failure rate in 2014! Last year, the Mumbai (Western) RTO rejected just six out of 1,97,525 applications — and most of these were on technical grounds!

The system needs to change. In Pune, where as an experimental measure, applicants were made to drive on a specially-designed test track monitored by CCTV cameras (which prevent the testing officer from winking at mistakes), the failure rate shot up from 5 per cent to over 40 per cent overnight.

We cannot ignore the driver behind the wheel if we are to stem the tide of blood washing over our roads and highways. A standardised protocol for testing, an automated sensor-based test track, and stricter vigilance on licence granting authorities can be a start.

Senior Associate Editor

Published on March 15, 2016

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