Ever wondered how visibly polluting vehicles get the permission to ply on the roads? Here is why and how! Blame it on rampant corruption at the Regional Transport Authority (RTA) offices, and Motor Vehicles Inspectors (MVIs), who are duty-bound to physically verify a vehicle and its documents before giving it a fitness certificate to ply on the roads, apparently issue such certificates sitting in their offices in lieu of heavy bribes. Thus, they declare even polluting or unsafe vehicles fit to ply on the roads.
Punjab Vigilance Bureau (VB) has busted a racket in the state in which some of the RTAs and MVIs were issuing fitness certificates to vehicles only on the basis of documents without physically inspecting them at a specified place.
During a surprise checking, the VB first detected this irregularity in Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann’s home district Sangrur where the MVI was on average issuing 250 fitness certificates in a working day. This is despite the fact that a vehicle needs a minimum 45 minutes for physical inspection by the MVI. At this rate, it is difficult to issue even 50 certificates in a day.
RTA officials in connivance with agents and middlemen were found blatantly issuing fitness certificates without any physical verification of vehicles in lieu of bribes ranging from Rs 1,000 to Rs 2,800 per vehicle depending on the model of the vehicle.
A senior official said that during the preliminary investigation conducted so far, this scam in Sangrur was going on for the last seven to eight years and more than 2000-2500 vehicles were being issued fitness certificates every month. He said it was not possible for a person to physically inspect such a large number of vehicles during the period as the MVI Mahinder Pal was holding additional charge of two more districts, Faridkot and Ferozepur. He used to visit Sangrur only for two days – Monday and Thursday.
The official said that bribe money of Rs 35-40 lakh was being collected at RTA Sangrur every month, making this scam run in crores of rupees. As per the rules of transport, all commercial vehicles have to obtain a fitness certificate from the RTA office in order to ply on the roads after physical inspection by the MVI. In this scam, the involvement of RTA Sangrur, MVI, their clerical staff and private persons has come to light.
As expected, similar irregularities and corruption are apparently going on in some other RTA offices in Punjab. The VB on Wednesday arrested MVI Jalandhar Naresh Kaler and a private agent Rampal along with a bribe amount of Rs 12.50 lakh, besides documents pertaining to suspicious issuance of fitness certificates to vehicles.
This was after the VB on Tuesday conducted surprise checks at MVI offices at seven locations in the state – Amritsar, Gurdaspur, Ferozepur, Faridkot, Mansa, Jalandhar and Hoshiarpur.
Revealing the modus operandi, a spokesperson of the VB said that it has come to light in various districts that the officials in connivance with agents and middlemen were issuing fitness certificates without any physical verification of vehicles in lieu of heavy bribes.
Official sources said that the same modus operandi is being followed in the entire state. As each district is not having MVI, one MVI is holding charge of two or three districts. An official said that MVIs were found to be operating through agents who do the paperwork for issuing the fitness certificates and play the role of a middleman for MVIs and RTA staff members.