S. Kanaka Raju applied for a driving licence (DL) in April last year. It’s been more than eight months and he, along with scores of other motorists, has been suffering the exasperating delay in the issuance of their DLs, registration certificates (RC) or renewed documents. The Regional Transport Offices (RTO) across the State, however, cite the shortage of cards for the lengthy wait.
“I have cleared the driving test, all the mandatory checks of my vehicle, and I also paid the requisite fee months ago. I was given a temporary paper document by the department staff who said that the cards were in short supply and asked me to wait for some time,” says the resident of Ashok Nagar in Vijayawada.
Amidst reports of the scarcity of smart cards due to a shortage of semiconductors globally, it is learnt that the State Transport Department has decided to migrate from chip-based smart cards to QR code-based driving licences. “After discussing the issue thoroughly, we are contemplating doing away with the chip-based smart cards and opt QR code-based driving licences,” said a senior official of the Transport Department.
A four-member committee constituting members from the Department held several rounds of talks before arriving at the decision, said the official, informing that fresh tenders would be called for the QR code-based cards.
Admitting the 8-9 months of backlog, the official said each month, on average, around 2 lakh cards are issued. “We should be able to start the process by March,” he said.
Applicants from across the State are in the same boat with the pending DL and RC cards increasing by the day. For instance, in the NTR district alone, there is a pendency of around 60,000 cards. “We have not been able to issue DL and RC cards since March 2022 because of non-availability of cards,” said Deputy Transport Commissioner M. Purendra.
Why the QR coded cards?
The cards issued earlier, the Smart Card Driving Licence (SCDL) is tamper-proof and has an embedded microprocessor chip which stores all the information about the licence-holder. Not all States in the country have adopted this smart card driving licence but it is considered by many to be much better than the chip-based driving licence as the former holds all the information about the licence-holder.
The department officials however vouch for the QR code-based card saying that it can also do everything an SCDL card does but in a much simpler way. The non-availability of the chip-embedded card readers is said to be yet another reason for the officials to move on to the QR coded cards.
Meanwhile, the number of callers enquiring about their registration certificates (RC) has been increasing by the day at the offices of local vehicle dealers. “We deliver the vehicle with a temporary registration. The RTA should post the original RC within a month. Customers keep calling us to ask for reasons for the inordinate delay and we have no clue,” said a prominent vehicle dealer, informing that he has been redirecting the calls to the RTA office.
“The applicants are made to pay ₹200 for each card. The fact is that the money is not being utilised to issue the licence and registration certificates could mean that it is being diverted elsewhere”Mohammed MushtaqAn applicant
In the midst of the talk surrounding microchips, a highly placed source in the department attributed the delay to the paucity of funds. It is said that the department needs funds to the tune of around ₹76 crore annually to issue DLs and RCs. “The applicants are made to pay ₹200 for each card. The fact is that the money is not being utilised to issue the licence and registration certificates could mean that it is being diverted elsewhere,” said Mohammed Mushtaq, a piqued applicant from Sanath Nagar in Vijayawada city.
Conventionally, driving licences were issued in the old book format with several pages of information. Often, with regular use, the pages of the booklet would come apart and they had to be stuck again. To make things easier, modern driving licences were issued in the form of a card that can be carried without any hassle.
But the State now plans to do away with the chip embedded in the smart card and instead issue QR coded cards asserting that they are as good as the chip-based cards.