It will no longer be possible for operators of emission testing centres to fleece customers or print falsified Pollution Under Control (PUC) certificates. The Transport Department has decided to take control of the software which deals with recording emissions and approving the certificates.
The move comes after several complaints from motorists regarding flaws in the software that allowed PUC centre operators to hand out certificates without really testing vehicles. In some cases, it is even possible, with a small hack, to issue certificates without the vehicle being present. This software patch, which tricks the original software into thinking that the pollution levels have been recorded and are within limits, is freely available in the market, sources said.
“There are two ways in which this kind of fraud happens. The first is where a photo of the vehicle's licence plate is held in front of the camera and false readings are fed into the machine. The other is where the vehicle is present but the probe is not inserted and the readings are falsified,” said M.K. Aiyappa, Transport Commissioner.
At the centre of the issue is the software which connects to the central Transport Department servers and updates details of certificates issued. This software's development and deployment was outsourced by the Transport Department to the Karnataka State Electronics Development Corporation Limited (KEONICS).
The Transport Department will fix glitches in the software to prevent further misuse.
It will also operate the software instead of contracting it to a third party.
“We will now take over the software and enhance it to prevent such hacks. Our IT department will then run it,” Mr. Aiyappa added.
According to one emission testing centre operator, “Commercial vehicle owners often ask us to visit their offices for a day. We take a laptop along and issue the certificates. The vehicle's picture in a mobile phone is enough to do the needful.”
to the rescue
To safeguard against such illegal practices, the Transport Department is considering installing a CCTV camera at every emission check centre. “The camera will be installed by the operator but we will have ownership of the recordings. They will have to be made available for a period of three months for inspection by our officials. We are also looking at the possibility of matching the vehicle number recorded on the CCTV with the vehicle number recorded in the certificate,” Mr. Aiyappa said.
While emission testing centres are usually located on the premises of a fuel station, the owners most often do not operate them. However, when such centres are raided and irregularities discovered, the owner is also held liable.
“Many bunk owners have had to face charges of aiding and abetting the scam. The equipment is seized and cases are filed against them as well when most of the time they are not even aware of the fraud.
If the Transport Department takes over the software to prevent hacking, they must also revisit cases booked previously against bunk owners,” a member of the Bangalore Petroleum Dealers Association said.
Emission testing centres
In Bengaluru: 323
In Karnataka: 705
Software connecting central server to centre can be hacked
Readings can be manipulated
Vehicles do not have to be present at centre
Take over software development and operations
Monitor centres using CCTV cameras