New Delhi: Since the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act 2019 came into effect on September 1, the business of Keval Sharma, a tea-snacks seller outside a busy RTO office in Delhi, has been booming.
"People are coming in large numbers to get their licences made and their expired licences renewed. They stand in long queues under the sun and consume tea. My business has shot up by at least 30 per cent in the last few days," he said.
Although the legislation for the new Act was introduced in 2017, it couldn't pass the Rajya Sabha and lapsed with the dissolution of the 16th Lok Sabha. But, with the Modi 2.0 government's renewed push for the new rules, things have moved smoothly.
However, the national capital has been thrown into a temporary frenzy under the new regulations which aim to enforce stricter penalties for road traffic violations.
It took five days for Sanjay Mehra, a Delhi University student, to finally get to his nearest RTO office. He had registered for a learner’s licence earlier but it expired last month.
"I have been hearing that people are being fined as much as Rs 32,000 for violations. I don’t want to be fined such a huge amount," he said as he stood in queue to re-apply for another learner’s licence. "This time I cannot afford to forget to apply for a permanent licence," he added.
In India, a learner’s licence is valid for a period of six months. The applicant is expected to apply for a permanent one within this duration.
Under the new regulations, the maximum penalty for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs has been increased from Rs 2,000 to Rs 10,000. People not wearing helmets or seat-belts will be fined Rs 1,000, the amount which was Rs 100 earlier. Those driving without a licence will be fined Rs 5,000 or face three months in jail.
While Sanjay waited in queue, his cousin, Sumit Kumar, joined him to get his vehicle documents in order.
"This is sort of a family reunion. I lost my licence a few months back. Our family car also had some papers missing. I tagged along with Sanjay to get everything in order. Who will pay all that challan?" he exclaimed.
Sumit said he welcomes the new regulations. "It’s time our country has road traffic and its violations under its grip. So many violations, including small things like an expired licence, require attention. Those who never bothered to get a licence are sweating it out in the sun today."
Standing next to Sumit was Manoj, a pharmacist, who lost his licence two days ago. "Had the new regulations not been put in place, I may have delayed coming here," he said, approaching the counter as his name was called out.
Since the new law came into effect, the Delhi Police has issued 3,900 challans to traffic rule violators. One such challan was issued to Dinesh Madan. The Gurugram police fined him Rs 23,000 for flouting driving without a licence, driving without a registration certificate, driving without insurance, violating air pollution norms and driving without a helmet.
Within four days, the police in Haryana and Odisha have collected more than Rs 1.41 crore in penalties. Penalty of Rs 10,000 fine for not giving way to emergency vehicles and Rs 10,000 for driving despite disqualification, are some violations that the total some amounts to.
An official at the RTO in Sarai Kale, Delhi told News18 that applications for the renewal of expired licences and new licences are averaging to more than 50 a day.
"Approved driving licences from our office on September 2 were 54. The very next day it shot up to 78. While this number has reduced since then, the number of applications has increased drastically. There are many applicants for the learner’s licence. The rush will be higher a month or two later as the expiry date of previously issued licences nears," he said on the condition of anonymity.
"There has been a 20 per cent over all increase in the renewals," he added.
A similar rush was also witnessed across various gas stations in the national capital. In Saket, cars lined up in multiples of 10 from out the station to get their pollution check certificates.
Rajni, a gas station worker, described the situation as "maddening".
"People come with ancient expired certificates. Some are as old as two years. Everyone is rushing to get pollution levels checked now. No one bothered to do it earlier. All this just to avoid the hole in their pockets," she said.
Salman and Azam, residents of Saket, waited outside the gas station for their turn to check the pollution levels for their bikes.
"We were at the RTO office until 1pm. Azam applied for his permanent licence, while I applied for my learner's licence. Having done that paper work, we came to get our pollution certificates," said Salman, sipping his tea as he looked at his watch.
It was way beyond lunch time now. "Should we forget about lunch today? We'll have something later in the evening. It’s already late," Azam pointed.