Pending driving licenses

Prolonged driving license printing issue

Jammu and Kashmir has progressed leaps and bounds, most significantly from a regular file age to a paperless digital age. The full focus of the administration is to provide the requisite services at the doorstep of the public. But certain departments haven’t fallen into sync with the LG administration, and the Transport Department, specifically RTO offices, fall into this category. Time and again, RTO offices are in the news for all the wrong reasons. This time it is the issuance of driving licenses; the issue is the non-availability of smart cards and coloured films required to print permanent licenses. Again, there is a disagreement between two government departments, this time the Transport and Finance. The net result is that 17,000 people have suffered official apathy for more than three months. In this digital age, the idea that the Transport Department is not able to get timely sanctions from the Finance Department is unimaginable. The last-minute March, year-end purchasing, is the norm for certain departments, despite the administration’s clear encouragement to plan well in advance. A department that is specifically meant for driving licenses is not able to procure smart cards and coloured films on time, and no accountability is being fixed. The public has been left to manage itself. Things get complicated when on the road. Traffic Police officials ask for a hard copy of license. In the absence of it, fine get imposed on the spot. The matter is further exasperated while travelling outside the UT of Jammu and Kashmir, where drivers face numerous difficult situations despite no fault of their own. It is not one week or fifteen days, but a delay of three months and still counting is too much for a government department to act upon. This is not the first time this has happened, as during the digitisation of RTO offices a few years ago, the same story of paper and printers delayed license printing for months. The problem with the department seems to be accountability; when the public is paying timely fees, clearing the driving test, and fulfilling all formalities, then why such a callous attitude towards a vital service? This non-issuance of a driving license has cascading effects like denial or delay in settlement of insurance claims, but the transport department seems to be least bothered. There are more than 17000 drivers on the road without a valid driving license, and as such, the matter is very serious. Driving a vehicle without a driving license is a punishable offense, and any registration of an FIR or punishment from the court can spoil the career of students.
Once again, the efforts of the administration are being neutralized by the Transport Department. On the one hand, the administration has been successful in delivering more than 445 services in online mode within the stipulated time. On the other hand, the transport department has not bothered for more than a quarter of a year to get the driving licenses printed and issued. An investigation and a resolution of accountability are necessary for this matter, which is quite serious. The smart card and coloured film are still in the tendering process; a way out must be found, like ordering from any vendor who can supply the material on short notice and has already supplied the material to some other State.