Wednesday, July 22, 2009

NON-STATE ACTORS

NON-STATE ACTORS
In an obvious money-making ploy, transport officials in the city are singling out vehicles with non-Karnataka registration and harassing them with trumped up charges and worse
SUCHITH KIDIYOOR


It might be pertinent to ask since when the city’s RTO officials have become selfproclaimed saviours of Kannada pride. Though, in this case, hard cash not parochialism per se seems to be the motive in targeting outsiders.
It is quite common on Bangalore’s roads to see traffic policemen and transport officials single out non-Karnataka vehicles, harass them and, more often than not, manufacture charges against them to extort money. With thousands of vehicles plying in the city which have Delhi, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala or Tamil Nadu registrations, the amount of money the officials make and, their stake in keeping it afloat, becomes evident.
A Saravanan, a turmeric grower from Tamil Nadu, and his car driver Kumar had a particularly harrowing experience. Saravanan’s vehicle (a white Maruti van, registration number TN 01 J 4179), while on its maiden visit to the city, was seized by the transport department officials on the outskirts of the city stating that tax had not been paid. Though the driver showed photocopies of the van documents and the annual tax payment receipts, the senior motor vehicles inspector attached to Rajajinagar RTO refused to listen and seized the vehicle.
Speaking to Bangalore Mirror, Kumar explained: “It was around 11:45 am on July 17 that transport officials stopped my vehicle near Peenya. When I showed them the photocopies of the documents, they insisted on the originals. I told them I will get it, but they seized the vehicle. I kept telling them it was a private car and showed them the documents pertaining to taxes paid, but they did not listen. This was plain harassment.” MAJOR DISCREPANCIES
Things did not end there. In the acknowledgement issued, the inspector stated the date of seizure as April 17 instead of July 17. This apart, the inspector stated that the car belonged to a person who is from Ramapur village in Karnataka when in reality van owner Saravanan is from Bhavani in Tamil Nadu’s Erode district. The inspector alleged that tax had not been paid for the last one year, but the fact is that Sarvanan had bought the van only seven months ago! The tax receipts of the van are valid till March 31, 2010.
But the worse was yet to follow. It took four days for Sarvanan and Kumar to get the vehicle released and take it back home. “We showed them the original documents, but were asked to wait. They kept telling us that the van had been moving around in Karnataka for the last 12 months despite our telling the truth that this was the first time that we were coming to Bangalore in the van. Finally, they said our emission certificate had expired and collected Rs 600 for it along with some other tax and released the van on Tuesday,” Kumar said.
“They could have collected the fine on the first day itself for not possessing emission certificate, but wasted four days of ours. We had a good image of Karnataka’s officials, but it has gone now,” said Saravanan’s friend Srinivas.
CIRCLE OF CORRUPTION
When Bangalore Mirror contacted the transport department officials, they had a different story. Rajajinagar RTO J Gnanendra Kumar said: “None of our staff harass any motorists, they just do their duty. The transport department top-brass have instructed us to check vehicles which come from other states, we are doing that. During inspection, vehicle owners do not produce proper documents.
Though rules mandate that non-Karnataka registered vehicles have to pay lifetime tax if they continue to ply in the state for more than 12 months, many continue to evade it, Gnanendra pointed out.
On why non-Karnataka vehicles are targeted, a transport department official blamed it on corruption. “Paying our topbrass to get good postings is no longer a secret. We need to recover whatever we have paid and moreover we are under pressure to pay monthly mamools too. When the pressure increases, we undertake various drives,” he said. According to sources, a senior motor vehicles inspector is supposed to pay a bribe of Rs 40,000 per month and that of motor vehicles inspector is Rs 25,000 per month.

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