Delhi transport authority in Sheikh Sarai does not accept Voter-ID or Aadhaar card as proof of nationality

While the central government has started a major initiative to get the our country’s entire 100 crore plus population a national identity through the Aadhaar card, the only ID proof which is unique in that it cannot be duplicated, many people who have never applied for a driver licence may be surprised to learn that the Delhi transport authority office in Sheikh Sarai may be one of the few government bodies in the country that does not accept either your voter card or Aadhaar card as a proof of your nationality. Surprisingly, they do accept the pan card as a proof of your citizenship, though the key documents required to get one’s pan card are the same voter card and Aadhaar card which are not accepted by the authority.

Other documents accepted as proof of citizenship by the authority are your birth certificate, school leaving certificate, passport, nationality certificate issued by a magistrate, residency permit issued by the state government, SC/ST certificate, refugee registration card, etc. How one can vote with a voter’s card if it is not considered as proof of your citizenship remains a mystery only the Transport Authority can solve. Incidentally, many people who move to Delhi from their home state after getting a job and want to apply for a licence may not carry their ration cards or birth certificates with them, but most would definitely carry their voter cards and Aadhaar cards in their wallet.

Strangely, the Aadhaar or Voter-ID card is easily accepted as proof of nationality in most government departments — it is an essential requirement when applying for a passport and an Aadhaar card is a key requirement at the time of applying for a voter id card and a voter id card one of the few documents that enables you to get an Aadhaar card.

In the case of the transport authority, neither an Aadhaar card or Voter ID card is mandatory as proof of residence to get a learner’s licence. A life insurance policy, a pay slip from a government organisation or a passport, or even an electricity and water bill, post office or bank passbook, ration card, house registry documents or property tax receipt, marriage certificate or income tax returns may do the trick. These documents are rarely accepted on their own if you go to open a bank account like Jan Dhan account, if you do not have either a voter card or Aadhaar card as well.

Also, many of the officers and clerks in the Transport Authority are so burdened with work due to these puzzling lacunae and the overwhelming number of applicants arriving each day at their offices, they simply vent their frustrations on the poor applicants if they mistakenly break any of the convoluted rules or deviate from protocol. For example, in the Sheikh Sarai there is no separate counter for women. They are made to stand in an extremely narrow space between two queues for men and have to almost wrestle their way to the counter and keep trying their luck to force their applications through the tiny opening in the cage where payments for learner’s licence is accepted, while being brutishly elbowed out by the men standing next to them in the queue, who feel women are getting an unfair advantage by not having to stand in line while the men are pushed relentlessly from behind by the large crowd. In addition women are shoved out of the way by men exiting the queue so they almost fall down, as the men have no other way to leave this space unless they push aside the women obstructing their way.

In case a woman is enterprising enough to negotiate the sharp elbows and stomping feet and somehow get her application into the babu’s cubbyhole, he will not answer if you ask him if he has change or how much you are required to pay for a learner’s licence, as there is no notice over the counter displaying the exact tender. In addition, he will almost fling your application at you if it is out of order as dozens of men are clamouring for his attention behind you. Get a medical test, he will growl, you are fifty years of age and a senior citizen. When you ask if this test is available in-house, again he will refuse to answer, though such information should have been clearly displayed at the entrance. A kindly peon will inform you that such a medical test is conducted three floors down but your heart will quail at the sight of yet another queue for this test and since you realise that you will probably not be able to resubmit your application in time the same day, you decide to brave this wall of bureaucracy at some future date when you have obtained a medical certificate from a slightly saner place where you don’t have to wait in line for a couple of hours.

But your troubles are not over. For all such ‘disabled’ people, yet another officer will tell you that your medical certificate is not valid even though it is signed by a doctor from a government hospital, as this doctor is not on the official list of the transport authority’s recommended government hospitals, again something the applicant had no clue about. Among the names on the list are Safdarjung hospital and All India Institute of Medical Sciences. Aren’t these premier hospitals already straining at the seams, do they have to be burdened with hordes of driving license applicants needing simple vision and hearing checks? There are many such bizarre rules and clauses which will come as a shock unless you are well versed in the ways of this department beforehand.

Ironically, while babudom is alive and thriving in the transport authority office when it comes to accepting your application to become a driver, such eagle-eyed inspection is not evident at the point where it matters most — when your driving test is conducted by the same officers. There is a one-to-one interaction between you and the examiner and the opportunity to bend the rules is tempting, to say the least. One can come in one’s own car or borrow a car from another aspirant, and if that is not possible, who is to know if you pass the test without a vehicle? This is where the touts come into play and are able to promise you a driving license on the first try (for the right price, of course, one hears the current rate is upward of 3000 rupees), without you so much as laying a finger on the steering wheel. 

Thousands of driving licences are issued by the officers each month, but going by the number of transport officers available to take these tests and the congested area where driving tests are conducted, this number should be in the mere hundreds. The rash driving by Delhi’s motorists, the numerous accidents on our streets and the 1 lakh driving licences seized in Delhi due to traffic violations tell their own sorry tale.

But all is not lost. If you are an optimist who always views the glass as half full, look on the bright side. Along with the odd-even car experiment being conducted by the Delhi government, this bureaucratic inefficiency and obduracy could be a canny way of limiting the number of drivers, and therefore cars, on Delhi roads. Ergo, not only do you have less pollution and less traffic on the streets, you get fitter by using public transport and your pocket is also considerably less lighter at the end of each month. So all enthusiastic would-be car owners and drivers in Delhi, spare yourself the headache and heartache (if you are failed repeatedly by ‘honest’ driving inspectors), and try to discover the joys of the Metro in our national capital instead. 
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