Many vehicles in the district operate without the mandatory fitness certificate, Motor Vehicles Department (MVD) officials have said.

This means a sizeable number of vehicles are unfit to ply on roads, putting the lives of passengers and pedestrians at risk. Autorickshaws and lorries are the main offenders, officials say.

A senior MVD official said it was estimated that 10 per cent of autorickshaws and five per cent of lorries in Ernakulam were operating without fitness certificates.

However, most bus operators complied with the law and violators among them were less than one per cent, he said.

Transport Commissioner Rishi Raj Singh told The Hindu that firm action would be taken against the offenders. “We will tighten inspection at all major check posts so that no vehicle without a fitness certificate enters the State,” he said.

The official said autorickshaw operators were reluctant to apply for fitness certificates as they considered the welfare fund contribution of Rs.1,500 to be unreasonable. This was more than the Rs.500 they paid as tax, forcing owners to keep their vehicles in good condition to evade the scrutiny of officials.

Autorickshaw operators could not put up with the fact that while they had to pay up three times the tax, the welfare contribution prescribed for heavy vehicles like buses was a mere Rs.2,400 as against the Rs.1 lakh they doled out as annual tax.

The official said lorry operators who did not ply long distances were reluctant to apply for fitness certificates.

Vehicle owners refusing to seek fitness certificates could also be tax defaulters, the official said.

“Regional Transport Offices (RTOs) do not accept tax until the welfare fund contribution is made; fitness certificates are not issued unless tax is paid. This effectively means majority of vehicles without fitness certificates would have defaulted on tax as well.”

The Ernakulam RTO issues fitness certificates four days a week. Vehicles are declared unfit if they fail to comply with various parameters. A vehicle operator may have to show up at the office three or five times before securing the certificate.

K.R. Saju of the AITUC-affiliated Auto Drivers Federation admitted that there might be autorickshaw operators operating without the certificate.

“Many auto drivers are struggling to make ends meet, this may be why they find it difficult to pay the welfare contribution mandatory to get a fitness certificate,” he said.

K.K. Hamza, State president of Kerala State Lorry Owners Welfare Federation, said lorries that plied short distances, between 50 km and 75 km, were the errant ones.

“These vehicles are decrepit and do not have speed governors installed without which fitness certificates are not issued,” he said.

At present, there is no mechanism other than random inspections carried out by MVD officials to book violators. Errant autos attract a fine of Rs.3,000, while heavy vehicle owners have to shell out Rs.5,000. Hit by severe staff shortage, the MVD is finding it tough to enforce the law.

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