It is good to note that the transport department has decided to enforce regulations for motor driving schools. The first-ever audit of motor driving schools, carried out by a private agency for the transport department, has revealed that the performance of 64 of them warranted closure for failing to meet the requirements. Of them, 20 schools were placed in the ‘average’ category, 2 in ‘below average’ category and 7 in ‘poor’ category. Apart from them, 30 were ranked ‘very good’, 50 ‘good’ and 3 ‘excellent.’ The transport department promises to act tough against the 35 other motor driving schools which evaded audit on flimsy grounds. The department may order them shut after serving them notices. These schools would have to get audit done by the same private agency at their own expense if they wish to get approval to operate. The transport department promises to be unsparing even to the schools that went through the audit but were found to be average, below average and poor; they would have to not only upgrade the facilities but also comply with the mandatory requirements within four months, failing which they too risk the possibility of being closed permanently.
Motor driving schools have for long operated without rules and regulations and served as shops for getting the aspirants driving licences for a fee, which was shared by the owners of schools and transport department officials. The violations and illegalities have gone on with hardly any action taken against them. With the performance data available to them now, the transport department has to ensure that the driving schools meet the requirements pertaining to offices, classrooms and other infrastructure and amenities. The department must also compel the schools to train students according to rules.
Investigations carried out by the officials of the Lokayukta some months ago had found gross irregularities in the functioning of the motor driving schools. According to their reports, some of the motor driving schools had obtained licences by hiding facts, particularly those relating to the non-availability of qualified motor mechanics with them. According to Rule 24 (3) (VI) of the Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989, a person intending to start a motor driving school should either himself possess a certificate in motor mechanics or higher qualification in mechanical engineering or employ staff having the required qualification for imparting the driving instructions. During the audit some of the schools were found to be operating from kitchen. The office premises of some driving schools were being used for other purposes including storage of liquor, cooking gas, coconuts and vegetables. In some cases the owners of the driving schools were using vehicles that were not registered with the transport department. Some of the schools were using newer vehicles by disposing of the registered vehicles without getting the approval of the transport department.
The gross violations of rules and regulations by the owners of the motor driving schools have been always apparent to the poor ordinary Goans who had to seek their ‘admission’ in order to get trained for getting a driving licence. These seekers of licence in more ways than one connived with them for getting their licence and even paid the bribe they demanded. And of course, the students never have had the courage to complain about the gross violations of rules and regulations about the degree of the trainer, misuse of office space, type of vehicle and so on. It was only after the Lokayukta discovered the gross violations that the transport department ordered an audit of motor driving schools. If there is little traffic sense among drivers, some blame has to be given to the owners of the driving schools. They never help the students inculcate a deep sense of road discipline. The course at the driving schools should be revisited and inculcation of road safety sense should be made the defining criteria for teaching driving and granting licence. Before the grant of driving licence, the person should not only be put to test for driving skills but also knowledge about road safety rules. A year ago, the state government announced that a computerised driving test track would be set up at Ponda. However, nothing of that has been heard since. If the driving schools have to be made law-abiding and responsible the transport department has to first put its own apparatus in order. And the Lokayukta and the media and the public shall keep a close watch whether the transport department fulfills its promise of teaching the driving schools rules and regulations or not.