AFTER dilly-dallying over the issue for years the state government has finally decided to implement the Supreme Court order for installation of speed governors in commercial vehicles and digital meters in tourist taxis. With the taxi operators ending their opposition to installation of either speed governor or digital meter, the government should take steps to complete the process within the shortest possible timeline. The transport department is in the process of testing digital meter and is expected to receive the report from experts by the end of this month. After that it should open bids and award the tender to the successful bidder after due diligence. As taxi unions are going to co-operate in expending the process, we hope digital meters to be in place on the 20,000 taxis the state before the new tourist season starts.
Goa has been the only state in the country where taxis are operated without fare meters. According to an amendment to the Goa Motor Vehicles Rules, 1991, it is mandatory for all taxis in the state to be fitted with digital fare meters along with a printer and a global positioning system (GPS) tracking device. While Goa has earned the reputation of being a top tourist destination over the years it has also earned some bad reputation owing to exorbitant fare charged by taxi operators. For years the government has been fixing dates for implementation of the rule, only to buckle under the pressure of the taxi unions that were usually backed by politicians, and postpone it to a later date. It is a pity that successive governments in the state failed to implement the rules and court orders governing taxi operations and were held hostage by the taxi unions. A confrontation between the government and the taxi operators on the issue was witnessed in January this year in which the government again succumbed to their pressures and put off implementation of the digital fare meters as well as speed governors.
It is time the transport department also picked up the ruptured threads of a scheme that has been awaiting implementation for years: high security registration plates (HSRPs) in every vehicle, which is mandatory according to a Supreme Court ruling. In 2012, the apex court ruled that installation of HSRP was statutory. It was not only in the interest of the security of the state but also served a much larger public interest. “Therefore, it is not only desirable, but mandatory, for every state to comply with the statutory provisions/orders of this court in terms of Article 129 of the Constitution of India, 1950,” the apex court said in its order. HSRPs are embedded with seven security features, which could help in detecting stolen vehicles, prevent their misuse and trace culprits involved in hit and run accident cases. HSRPs would also help against tax evasion at the time of registration and transfers during resale of vehicles, besides bringing the large unorganised sector of license plate printers into the organised sector.
HSRPs are to be fitted on two-wheelers, four-wheelers and commercial vehicles including auto rickshaws, motorcycle taxis and car taxis. Though the plan was started more than a decade back, it was abandoned after allegations were made that the tender awarded to Shimnit Ustch India by the state government was manipulated to favour the contracting firm and that owners of vehicles were being fleeced. Shimnit Ustch India is the leading licence plate manufacturer in the country. In the absence of uniform number plates, owners of vehicles have been using fancy number plates. The numbers on many plates are so small they are hardly visible. Some numbers on the plates, especially those fitted on two wheelers, are barely a few millimetres in thickness, and others are so fanciful in lettering they can hardly be read. Since installation of HSRPs is also mandatory, the government should implement this rule along with the enforcement of speed governors and digital meters. Contempt proceedings were started against Goa government before the apex court for its failure to implement the HSRP scheme. Here is the chance for the transport department to make up for its past shortcomings and implement the orders for speed governors, digital meters and HSRPs simultaneously. The rules and rulings pertaining to the installation of digital fare meters with GPS, speed governors and HSRPs are in the interest of the safety and security of the people. Goans and tourists alike can hope to gain as drivers and riders of vehicles as well as passengers in taxis with the implementation of these plans.