Interview

IT Way to Disciplined Traffic

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R Sreelekha

R Sreelekha
Transport Commissioner, Kerala

IT has been of immense help in curbing traffic violations, though it is the internal implementation of IT which is really challenging, says R Sreelekha in an interview with Kartik Sharma and Nayana Singh of ENN

Please tell us about the major initiatives being taken by the Transport Department in Kerala?

The two primary objectives of Transport Department are to enforce the Motor Vehicle Act with discipline and earn valuable revenue for the department. The Motor Vehicle Department is one of the major revenue producers for Kerala with a yearly turnover of around `3000 crores. However along with being a major revenue earner, our major concern is enforcing proper road vehicle rules to save lives on the streets and roads, which is a difficult task with just 800 Assistant Motor Vehicle Inspectors (AMVI) looking after the various needs of Transport Department in the state.
In a major step to improve the working of Motor Transport Department, we have introduced mobile enforcement squads and two to three of these squads are active in each district. Each squad has speed detection cameras, interceptors, digital recording devices and video cameras. The introduction of the mobile enforcement squads has led to revenue earnings in tune of `220 crore per year for various motor vehicle violations.
Red light jumping is a huge problem which causes majority of the 13,000 accidents and 4,200 deaths every year, and this is a big figure for a state like Kerala. To curb this menace, we have installed devices to observe the violation.
‘Third Eye’ is a public involvement initiative to report traffic violation. Any person can take a picture of traffic violation and inform the authorities, through a special mobile number. In addition, we have purchased interceptors — vehicle mounted surveillance system to check the over speeding vehicle at the section of the road.
Based on my past experiences in the CBI and anti-corruption department, I am planning to employ a system to put a curb on corruption in the Kerala Transport Department. There are about 19 border check posts in Kerala equipped with digital and electronic gadgets but people are overriding traffic rules over there as well. Other type of problem related to corruption related traffic violation is the use of expired vehicle licenses over time and unfair means to renew it.
To prevent this, I am planning a proposal to modernise the entire RTO office and border posts, we will install cameras over all RTO offices and border posts and then that feed will be sent to all the senior officials through a central server.
The introduction of eSystem, which offers online services from the Regional Transport Office (RTO), is in plans to become a cash free system. Its purpose is to offer RTO services online in various application formats. Through the eSystem, a car dealer while selling a car to customer for getting a registration number, can fill the necessary forms on RTO site and can pay the tax online and then by a obtained slip can go to RTO office and after the inspection of the vehicle, the required registration number can be provided to the car owner.
The cash free system will look into the aspect of card swapping for the payment of penalties and fees in the RTO offices. We are into discussion with government and ICICI bank, for this system.
Under New Motor Vehicle act many things like tests for driving licenses and inspection of vehicles are proposed to be outsourced. Checking at workshops can be given to selected vendors having adequate and appropriate equipment and infrastructure. However, we will have a full control and regulation on them.
To do all these activities in real time, we have introduced an application that is known to be as Smart Race Application. Violations like drunk-driving, pollution etc., can be checked out after taking picture and sent to the system, after three regular offences the driving licenses can be cancelled. The application is developed by us and is provided to the traffic police on demand. We are also planning to introduce RFID (Radio Frequency Identity Card) at check posts for an integrated system for existing separate payments for Forests Departments, Excise Departments, Commercial Departments and Motor Vehicle Departments.

There is a discussion going on that RTOs should be banned and the role of the private sector should be increased? According to you what would be the role of private sector and Information Technology in this respect?

The RTO offices cannot be banished. The passport offices can work as a facilitation centre. You go to different facilitation centres to get your passport issued, and passport office there works as a Nodal Agency for monitoring over the different facilitation centres. In the same manner RTO offices can also work in an outsourced manner. The facilitation centre of RTO can do tasks like issuing licenses, testing of vehicles.
At present, we have three digital car testing centres where the driving is observed by cameras and clearance is given in computerised manner. This ensures the minimum malpractices in issuing driving licenses. Any facilitation centre found indulged in corrupt practices is legible for their license to be cancelled. In this scenario, RTO can work as a Nodal agency. The RTO officers cannot be ruled out from the system, however, their work structure will be more sophisticated and monitoring oriented with new system put in order.

“Red light jumping is a huge problem which causes majority of the 13,000 accidents and 4,200 deaths every year, and this is a big figure for a state like Kerala”

When implementing technology what kind of challenges do you face?

Within the department itself there are associations in Kerala that are strongly opposing the digitisation beyond a certain limit. They want to keep the authority with them that they are enjoying. Under the new, Motor Vehicle Act, the compounding fees are very high. For helmet less driving it is `500 and driving without licenses it is `25,000. Corruption according to me is directly proportional to quantum of penalty. Even with heavier penalty, court will be reluctant to punish the guilty.
According to me, the major challenge is digital monitoring of the entire operations Vehicle security can be observed through and by embedding the chip into the car as it can be used for taxation, licensing, toll collection while connected to Aadhaar Card. With a vehicle identity there will be no issues of any accident, theft and any vehicle related crime.

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