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‘Staff shortage’ to blame for failure to crack down on fake number plates

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Reported by Santosh Jagdev

Bhubaneswar, Dec 4:

KHANDAGIRI ACCIDENT.. (7)

Transport authorities in Bhubaneswar have sought to hide behind ‘staff shortage’ to explain away their inability to crack down on vehicles with fake number plates plying in the city.

“There is an acute staff shortage in the RTO, which has created problems for us in discharging our duties properly. We have only four constables and two officers while the number of vehicles in the city has reached 30 lakh,” Regional Transport Officer (RTO) Lal Mohan Sethi told OST.

The issue of vehicles with fake number plates has got fresh traction after it was found that the Haiwa that mowed down three persons and injured 20 others at Khandagiri Square on Sunday was bearing a number plate that actually belonged to a car. While its actual registration number was OR 05 AL 4063, it had a number plate bearing the number OR 05 W 0056.

While boasting that even the limited RTO personnel furnish an average of 700 vehicle check reports (VCRs) and seize about 250 of them for their failure to furnish fitness certificates, Sethi admitted that they had not detected a single case of fake number plates in the last six months.

The RTO has a ready explanation for the tendency of heavy vehicle owners to use fake number plates though: the fear of the financier.

This begs the question: if transport authorities are aware of the modus operandi of the vehicle owners, why have they never bothered to check the genuineness of number plates and have spent all their time and energy on conducting only fitness checks instead. The implication is clear: that’s where the moolah is.

Interestingly, the shortage of staff has not deterred the RTO from announcing a fresh crackdown on heavy vehicles plying without fitness and permit.

The rampant use of fake number plates – not just by heavy vehicles, but also by bikes and other vehicles – is the best kept secret in the transport sector in the state. And yet, the authorities have done precious little to implement the high security number plates mandated by the Supreme Court in 2011 to prevent tampering of registration numbers.

An announcement was made by the state transport department about implementing the high security number plates soon after the apex court judgment. But things have not moved an inch since then.