Driven to Distraction

It hardly seems like you are in India’s capital city, rather it could be a zonal office in some backward district of a state. 

The same traffic-clogged road to the entrance of the building, the same endless queues at every counter, with people shoving each other to get to the front and jostling for foothold in the limited space, the same harried applicants running around like headless chickens from one counter to another with a clueless look on their face, the same rude officials shouting at poor and often uneducated would-be drivers who have not brought along the proper documentation, the same crowded corridors on every floor, the same sweltering heat and lack of seating or waiting space, the same rude personal assistants shooing you off if you try to meet somebody in charge or clarify any doubts you may have, it seems like nothing has changed in the last twenty years.

This is the time people who have returned from abroad get the sinking feeling that their idealism and patriotism may have been quite misplaced. If it is so difficult to get a driver’s license, how many more bigger hurdles would they have to face, they wonder. Thankfully, the presence of touts claiming to get your licence delivered to your doorstep pronto without any hassle, for a fee of course (read bribing higher-ups) is no longer so overt or brazen, though one hears a few still lurk in the corners in the hope of gullible prey.

The most surprising part is the lack of any clear signage directing applicants where to stand, and clearly stating the rules and documents needed before one can apply for the licence. If this was displayed prominently all around the exterior of the building, those not having the proper paperwork need not even set foot indoors, automatically freeing up some space. 

Not everybody has access to the internet, and even if they do, it would save immense trouble for both officials and applicants if huge notices are put up at key points inside and outside the building in both English and Hindi, stating which documents will and will not be accepted for various applications and starting a token system and also creating a waiting area with seating, so there is not so much apparent confusion and chaos. 

The ideal situation would be to put a major part of the application process online and outsource the entire operation to a third party, preferably to a qualified private company, in the same way that the entire passport seva project has been implemented by the Ministry of External affairs for example, in partnership with Tata Consultancy services. The difference now in the various regional passport kendras is there for all to see.

At one stroke it would remove a lot of the red tape and needless harassment of the uninformed who come to apply for a licence in good faith and would also remove many archaic requirements needed today for a driving licence, which have probably existed since the time of the British Raj.

While the central government has started a major drive to get the our country’s entire 100 crore plus population a national identity through the aadhar 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.
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