Anil Thakraney: Media must go after the RTOs

01 Jul,2013

By Anil Thakraney


And, yet again, over the weekend, two licensed drivers, in panic, ‘forgot’ the difference between the brake and the accelerator. And two more innocent lives abruptly ended on the streets of Mumbai. This has been happening in the past, and will continue to happen again and again. Why so? Because the RTOs give away driving licences as if they were distributing Cadbury Éclairs to children inside a mall. In exchange for some ‘goodwill’, of course.


Now, we all know that almost all the public sector organizations in India run on corruption money. The regular scams that get reported will tell you that. So there’s no reason why the driving licence issuing authorities would want to be left behind. The problem is this: Corruption in telecom spectrum allocation, in coal mining allocation, in arms purchase, in the Commonwealth Games, etc, doesn’t kill anyone, not directly at least. But corrupt RTOs literally gift people the licence to kill, this is akin to culpable homicide. This does not happen in any civilized nation in the world, it’s easy to get laid on the first date in London and New York, but you have to work really hard to get hold of the driving licence.


Which is why I have always wondered why the Indian media hasn’t taken this up in a big way. I have personally alerted a couple of newspaper editors in the last few years, but they seem to have ignored this problem. What is urgently needed is a 360-degree journalistic campaign on the (mal)functioning of the RTOs in India. Starting with massive, nationwide sting operations to expose these buggers. And then going after the big fish with hammers and shovels. Followed by continuous checks, right till the time these guys get their act together, till the processes are cleaned up. And till the time obtaining a driving licence becomes as tough in India as it is in the US and the European nations.


I must also add that I find it odd when the first thing the traffic cops check is if the killer driver was drunk. That should be the second step. They should instead first check if the person is capable of driving at all. And they’ll discover the real culprits are chilling in their own backyard.


PS: Absolutely brilliant car ad. It’s not a new commercial, but it’s worth watching again and again. Not a single shot of the car, and the point of cars being made for human beings beautifully made. It’s another matter, of course, that in India cars often kill human beings.


Anil Thakraney is a senior journalist and commentator. He is also Editor-at-Large, MxMIndia. The views expressed here are his own. He can be reached via Twitter at @anilthakraney


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