The Chennai Police busted a fake driving licence racket yesterday. Apparently the forgers had issued more than 30,000 such licences, each costing Rs. 850. Yesterday’s Daily Thanthi, a Tamil daily, carried a photograph showing some of the pictures seized in the raid. One of the clearly visible pictures belongs to a friend of mine, who had got a driving licence by paying a tout who claimed he could get a licence without a driving test. It looks like the tout got the licence from the forgers, knowingly or unknowingly. My friend is, of course, upset by all this, and fears arrest at any time.
There is no way of knowing how many of us have forged licences. I myself have used the services of the same tout to follow up on the processing of my driving licence, though I did take a driving test and had my picture taken at the RTO office. I also signed the licence and a big register at the office before being given my licence. Again, I used the services of the same fellow when I moved and needed to have the address changed. Again, I went to the RTO office, was photographed, and signed in all the places before getting the signature. Vidya’s licence too was arranged by the same fellow, though she too went to the RTO office for the whole process.
Now arises the question. More than 30,000 people hold licences and drive in Chennai (and I daresay around the country), who have never been certified by the RTO. So, if I hold a licence, how do I check whether it is real or forged? There is no mechanism by which one can do this. The only thing one can do is approach the RTO, but then that leaves one open to harrassment by the officials there. If only the RTOs had their records online, by which one could check if a driving licence number is valid or not, it would be immensely helpful, not only in situations like the present one, but also when one needs to validate the details of a prospective employee. Also, imagine the fate of those who are dependent on their licences for their livelihoods, like drivers and chauffeurs, who may even be employed by various Government departments.
What is called for now is an effort by the Chennai Traffic Police in coordinction with the Transport department to facilitate an easy and corruption-free method of checking the validity of one’s licence. The Chennai Traffic Police have proved to be innovative and enterprising in the past. Here’s hoping they do it once more.