What can you do in 30 seconds? Down a mini bottle of cola on a hot May afternoon, post a tweet or, if you happen to be in Ghaziabad, pass a driving test.
As those seeking a motor vehicle licence in Delhi begin to come to terms with tougher tests, those in Ghaziabad need to spend barely 30 seconds at the wheel. All they have to do is pay a tout.
In Delhi, candidates at the Sarai Kale Khan track need to reverse a vehicle, drive on hairpin bends, go up an incline and negotiate loops in shape of an 8. So challenging is the test that almost half the candidates opt out every day.
But the driving test on this side of the border is a farce that plays out on a half-acre plot in the Regional Transport Office compound in Ghaziabad’s Kavi Nagar.
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Candidates just need to get behind the wheel, move the car 10m, reverse the vehicle, and it’s done. The test, according to officials who supervise it, unsurprisingly has an almost 98% pass rate.
One candidate, in fact, cleared the test in this manner right in front of this reporter. He took the test in a driving school’s training car with the words ‘Drive With Confidence’ embossed on its front door. All the candidate needed to do was start the car and step on the accelerator. The rest was managed by the trainer.
The motor vehicles inspector, who should have been seated beside candidates, barked orders, as the candidates were called out one by one. The 30-second drill is repeated with nearly clockwork precision “Am I done?” asked a candidate as he came out of the car. “It was so easy. I have been practising all week,” he said.
That the test is a sham is corroborated by the number of touts sitting outside the RTO office. “Oh, you don’t know driving? It doesn’t matter. I’ll get the licence delivered to your home. Just pay Rs 2,100,” said Asish Yadav, who has his chair and table set up outside the main gate. Asked how he would manage that, he replied: “A setting with the officials settles everything.”
The eyewash of the test in Ghaziabad has ramifications even for the national capital. Delhi might have started plugging loopholes in licence procurement, but many of those who acquire their licence in Ghaziabad will be driving on the streets of the capital.
Officials in the Ghaziabad transport department pleaded helplessness, saying they could not do much with only a half-acre plot to carry out tests. “We do not have a proper driving track. We have requested the state government to allot us three acres,” said Bishwajeet Singh, the assistant regional transport officer. “We also have only one motor vehicles inspector against four sanctioned posts.”
Singh said there was a plan to install simulators in the office so that the tests can be conducted even if there is lack of space. A simulator costs at least Rs 50 lakh each.
Ajay Kumar Tripathi, the regional transport officer of Ghaziabad region, said, “With the kind of infrastructure we have, it leaves little room for us to conduct a fullfledged driving test but hopefully, this will change soon.”
(Additional reporting by Abhijay Jha)