Updated: Dec 21, 2019
By Sparkian Sulekha Chandra
Contributing Author for Spark Igniting Minds
Dear Indians, ask yourselves these questions which get you in rage and reason simultaneously.
Am I part of a system that compels me to hire agents for almost every government process?
Am I one of those Indians, who shirks away from meeting people in government organizations just because they make me run around from one window to another, one office to another for one signature?
Am I responding positively to the proposal of saving on time against some amount?
Here is an account of experience which, well, answers these questions.
Sitara got a call from her sister Megha who was shifting to Switzerland and was confused about what to do with her car which she wanted to retain in case they come back to India within a year. Like any other autobiographical response, Sitara suggested Megha hire an agent. Megha called the agent who charged Rs3000 for getting a NOC from the Regional Transport Office of Chennai. The NOC and other documents were posted to Sitara before leaving Chennai.
Sitara had no idea about RTO (Regional Transport Office) and its processes. She chose to visit RTO and ask about the required documents for transferring the registration to Nagpur. She happened to visit a cabin where the so-called officers were attending people and helping with document compilation.
She asked one of the officers, “Could you please let me know what are the documents required for the transfer of vehicles from one state to another?” Officer while having a sip of tea, replied, “Madam, please be seated and show me what all documents you already have.” Sitara placed all the documents on the table and within minutes this officer compiled the documents in a nice yellow cover after stapling them. The officer said, “Madam, would you like some tea or cold drink?” Sitara replied courteously, “No! Thank you, please guide me about the process as I don’t find any display board here which could guide the people.”
Very politely the officer replied,” Madam! Why do you want to take pains in going through the entire process, it will take you six months. If you are willing then we would suggest some service with a nominal charge.” Sitara asked him,“How much?” The officer replied, “Just Rs 5500!”
Sitara confirmed, “Are you an RTO officer or an agent?” The officer replied with a grin, “Officer as well as an agent. We have people who’ll do all the running around, ranging from paper filing to obtaining signatures and posting, etc.” Sitara thoughtfully asked, “So that means I don’t have to come here at all. You will post me the new registration card once it arrives, right?” The officer replied, “No Madam, you will have to come when we call you for your signatures and please make sure that you reach an hour before the scheduled time. One more thing, you will have to visit our sales tax office and show me the receipt after which the actual work will start.”
Sitara visited the sales tax office where she was asked to wait for almost 2 hours before she could get into the cabin. Someone in the sales tax office told her to submit the fee challan to their bank which was at 45 minutes distance from the sales tax office. While Sitara was taking down the address, the person proposed her an alternative, “In case you’re finding it difficult to travel to the bank to and fro and wait there which would consume your whole day, would you like us to do it for you? But the only difference is that I will write off that amount and it will save everyone’s time and effort. Don’t worry, we will give a valid challan receipt and nobody in RTO will question you about the dates that we put on the documents.” Sitara chose to go by herself and submit the fee at the bank and spent two days only to submit the fee and then submit the challan at the sales tax office as she had to rush back to her home to attend to her kid after his school gets over.
She then spent another day to show the challan receipt at RTO. She was asked to get copies of some forms and then get some signatures. After going through all the process, she was told to come after one week and submit Rs5500. By this time Sitara understood that she had done more than half of the work and searching the website gave her more clarity. Her bridge of patience broke when for a formal computer print at their office, the computer operator charged Rs1800 which was a prior setting without her knowledge. She was getting late to pick her kid and was there for more than two hours which included queue time. She asked the agent if there was anything else that she was supposed to do. The agent replied, “We will let you know, it is a cumbersome process!”
Sitara shouted aloud, “Does anyone in this office have complete knowledge of RTO regulations and processes? Does anyone have a process flowchart that can guide rather than mislead? Why should I pay in thousands to you agents when I am doing all the work and running around by myself? For how long do we have to suffer this exploitation of time, effort and money and buy this stress and harassment for no reason? Can anyone answer?”
Soon the guard in police uniform came to her and asked her for documents, gave her VIP treatment and got her signatures done which already had a huge queue. She was given guidance and asked to come after one month when the verification report is received. She visited RTO for all the work, in parts and could collect the documents only after six months of effort.
Sitara was like any other person who would only talk about corruption but after going through the process, she gained entire knowledge and was in a better position to guide others. In the very first place, any vehicle can be sent to another state for one year without transfer of registration which requires only a NOC (No Objection Certificate) from the issuing state. The agent at Chennai didn’t have the proper knowledge and hence this whole episode became a mandatory affair to deal with.
As citizens, we blindly go by what agents do and never question the system, rather we become a part of it and help make it legal because of our sheer lack of interest in gaining relevant knowledge. This process costs an unnecessary amount and effort which could be saved if we educated ourselves about the processes and systems with timelines.