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Vehicle Registration and Licences Digitisation has Reduced Footfalls

The process of standardisation of vehicle registration and other documentation originated in 1992 and a lot of thought and effort went into realising the dream. “We started with Delhi. It was a standalone project at that point of time,” says Mahesh Chandra, Deputy Director General, National Informatics Centre. “The national version came only in 2002, 10 years after we started in Delhi. During this period of time, we had three four versions of the software running even in NIC-one in Karnataka, one in Haryana, and one in West Bengal. The very same year, the ministry also liked the idea of unifying the software because eventually it is the CMVR (the Central Motor Vehicle Act and the Central Motor Vehicle Rules), which is core to this package. We decided to have one single core, which caters to the CMVR requirements and then customise this software to suit the requirements of each state. That is how it all started.”

The project took off well within Delhi but other state governments had their reservations about it. Initially, the offtake was slow but then slowly all the states realised that whatever they are investing in it, they were able to recover the cost within a few months. In 2002, the Surface Transport Ministry set up a technical committee, which came out with one single scheme both for Vaahan, which is the vehicle registration software, and for Saarthi for driving licences. The CMVR has been standardised to cater to requirements for Vaahan as well as Saarthi. Outside CMVR, whatever functionality is required by the states are also being standardised as far as possible. The result is that now there exists one single software, which has been implemented across the states, one for Vaahan and one for Saarthi.

From a standalone project, the process of standardisation of vehicle registration and other documentation has travelled a lot and today most states and Union Territories have adopted it.

Further, all the Regional Transport Offices (RTOs) across the country were issuing the registration certificates in various formats: as a booklet, a paper form, or a plastic card or a non-standard smart card. The same was the case with driving licences. The ministry set up a committee with representatives from the academia, NIC, the ministry itself and the industry. This team came out with standards, which are based on the ISO standard 7816 and removed the grey areas and formulated its own standards called SCOSTA (Smart Card Operating System for Transport Applications). Today, the SCOSTA card has been standardardised in almost 16 states as a document for RC and for driving licences.

Vaahan and Saarthi, both are components of the standardisation of the vehicle management process. Vaahan is for vehicle related services, like registration, taxation of all kinds, permits associated to it, insurance, hypothecation, issues related to pollution under control and any other service which is possible on RC under CMVR is covered under Vaahan. As far as the driving licence is concerned there is a software for the learner’s licence also. It is called STALL that contains a question bank of 20 questions. If one is able to answer 12 questions correctly, one automatically gets the learner’s licence. And after three months, one can apply for a permanent licence. As far as permanent licence is concerned, the software, Saarthi, takes care of all functionality, i.e., granting of licence, any addition/deletion of category because it could be for driving a light motor vehicle, or for driving other types of motor vehicles. There is a different criteria for heavy motor vehicles, i.e., minimum driving experience of one year for light motor vehicle. Only then can you get a commercial licence. These functionalities are available in Saarthi.

The standardisation process has definitely changed the scenario. As Chandra explains, “Our milestone was to re-engineer the services which are offered from an RTO and our agenda was to reduce footfalls, to reduce human interaction at the RTO as much as possible. That has happened because of (a) automation and (b) in several states, we have started offering such services from alternate channels like automobile registration services or in some states, we have tried giving learning licences from the schools, etc. Rajasthan has tried that. You can have several alternate channels and the school or college has all the required certificates, they have your birth record, they have your address proof and they have a proof that you actually exist.”

The experience has indeed changed for the citizens. As far as the registration of a new vehicle is concerned, the dealers are allowed to register the vehicle who have a direct link to the server, so they have delegated powers, they can operate on the same system, enter the data and get the registration number. In Delhi, prior to 1990s, it used to take couple of days to get a driving licence, a time that has been reduced to 15- 30 minutes at the maximum. Many large RTOs in the country, the largest RTO is in West Bengal, the turnaround time has reduced from three days to about an hour.

However, this task required a lot of reskilling, retraining and the actual process of re-engineering. “I think the biggest challenge was to train people. Integrate that mindset and ensure that there is enough handholding available to each one of them. Its difficult to count the number of training programmes conducted at each RTO for multiple sets of people,” recalls Chandra. “Apart from our own staff, we also had people from the industry working with us on this project. So, it was a big team. As far as the software part is concerned, we have about a 1,000 people working.”

No such initiative can be considered a success unless it registers a marked difference. Over a period of 5-6 years the number of transactions have doubled. May be some of these transactions are because of more efficient systems and people say alright since it does not take much time to get a driving licence. We have been able to take care of this load without adding many more windows. As far as the revenue generation part is concerned, for some RTOs the data is available and a revenue increase to an extent of 25 per cent on a year-to-year basis has been registered compared to only 10-12 per cent from before.

The turnaround time has reduced from two-three days to same day service and in many cases to service within a defined period of time, say half-an-hour or 45 minutes, but it differs from state to state. Almost all of 1000- odd RTOs across the country are not computerised. Further, these RTOs are connected to a State Register, and will soon be connected to the National Register. So, at the end of a day, all the data can be combined at the State level and at the same time, select data will come to the National Registrar. Once that happens, that will take care of lots of other issues, like obtaining license and renewals from anywhere in the country. Now with the National Register in place that will not be needed. This is being ensured that data once entered in the system is preserved in perpetuity. So, if an applicant’s data is entered at the time of getting the learner’s licence, the same data will be used for the permanent licence too. So, rather than having disjointed pieces of software, now there is a software which takes it from end-toend, starting from learner’s licence, permanent licence and any other service on these licences across the country.

Digitalisation does not mean that previous records are not being taken care of. Whenever you come for a service, the old record will be digitised. Some states have already cleared the backlog. They have entered all the data and these paper records are no longer required. In some states, they enter the data as and when there is a service request.

Digitalisation does not mean that previous records are not being taken care of. Whenever you come for a service, the old record will be digitised. Some states have already cleared the backlog. They have entered all the data and these paper records are no longer required. In some states, they enter the data as and when there is a service request. Then there is a third category where the records are not available. In all such cases, when an applicant comes for a service the data has to be entered afresh. There is no other option.

With technological hang-ups dealt with, the only way to look is forward. Soon the RTOs will be running a centralised system very and most of these issues related to the personal predilections should go away. The main goal is to reduce footfalls at the RTO and to reduce the human interaction and better citizen services.

Team Inclusion

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