Punjab motorists taken for a ride over number plates

Chandigarh (IANS): This is one ride that motorists in Punjab are going to hate. Over 1.3 million motorists in the state have been given faulty registration number plates for their vehicles and the government, which had turned a blind eye when the fraud was happening, has now cancelled the contract of a consortium which installed the faulty high security number plates.

Through an order delivered Jan 13, the Punjab transport department cancelled the contract of the consortium of three companies who were given the task in 2011 of installing high security registration plates (HSRP) on nearly 5.4 million vehicles.

The consortium comprised three companies — Agros Impex, Frost International Limited and Trinity Engineering Services. The government has however not uttered a word on launching an inquiry into the mess.

Sources in the transport sector peg the loss to motorists to the tune of Rs.50 crore due to the faulty number plates.

According to NGO Raahat Safety Foundation, the contract was terminated by the government following a series of complaints about the number plates.

One company has been blacklisted in two other states for faulty number plates.

“The issue is not about the faulty number plates alone. The companies have compromised national security by installing faulty plates which do not even fulfil the mandatory requirements under the law. These do not even have the snap locks and security numbers,” international road safety expert Kamaljit Soi told IANS.

“Mere cancellation is not enough. Someone needs to take responsibility for this situation. There are legal and national issues of security involved in this. Since 2011, the Punjab government chose, for whatever reasons, to ignore the discrepancies of the consortium despite complaints of poor quality number plates without security features.

“What if a vehicle is used for terrorist activity or crime? We have sought a CBI or vigilance probe into this,” said Soi, who was vice chairman of the Punjab government’s road safety council.

When the contract for the HSRP was given to the consortium in 2011, there were over 5.4 million registered vehicles in Punjab on which the new number plates were to be installed within two years.

The companies could not even complete one-third of those vehicles.

Transport department sources say there are over seven million registered vehicles in Punjab now.
“My understanding is that the faulty HSRPs have been affixed on new vehicles registered in Punjab since 2011. Out of the original 54 lakh (5.4 million) vehicles, only a limited number have got it installed,” Soi said.
Transport Minister Ajit Singh Kohar said the government “will look into this issue and resolve it”.

But the government’s move just to cancel the contract and not take action against the companies and transport department officials concerned is hardly of solace to motorists who got the faulty plates installed.
“We went through the ordeal of getting the HSRP, and now we are told that these are not valid as they don’t even have the security features. This is ridiculous. Was the Punjab government sleeping for the last three years? Who will pay for the new number plates?” Amritsar resident Ravi Soni told IANS.