Team of 300 to check Delhi’s 10mn vehicles
LOPSIDED Enforcement officers check old, polluting, and overloaded vehicles — with no help from machines
NEWDELHI: On the city’s roads will play out a battle of over 10 million vehicles against the 300-odd enforcement officers of the state transport department. These officers, aged 50 on average, are tasked with checking old, polluting, and overloaded vehicles — with no help from any devices.
For head constable Ashok Kaushik, who joined the department in 1990 as sub-inspector, the drill is a no-brainer. “We do not have barricades like the police to stop vehicles. So, we use hand gestures. If they stop, well and good, otherwise there’s nothing more we can do apart from informing the nearest police picket,” Kaushik said.
Kaushik, along with other members of his team, comprising an inspector, sub-inspector and two constables, said they were supposed to get anti-pollution masks and smoke-test machines to monitor polluting vehicles, last year. But, they have received none as yet.
“We catch trucks and cars based on an assumption and what we see. From October 5 till Friday, we have fined 14,938 visibly polluting vehicles. Most old trucks emit a lot of smoke when we ask them to press the accelerator. That’s one way we test them,” a transport inspector said.
Records with the transport department state that in three years, at least 12 field officers have died on duty. At present, 60 teams of about five officers each have been deployed across the city to initiate action against overloaded trucks, visibly polluting vehicles and checking Pollution Under Control (PUC) certificates.
The problem, according to officers, is that errant drivers often take them “casually”.
“For most people, the police are the only authority of law. Some head constables even com- plained of having to convince motorists that they were empowered by law to take action. After multiple instances of our officers being manhandled by motorists, we passed an order that the teams would not go to dimly lit areas,” KK Dahiya, special commissioner (transport), said.
A staff shortage is another problem the enforcement wing of the transport department has to deal with. The situation is so grim that the officers deployed in the 60 teams often have to also double up as ‘admin officers’. From replying to Right to Information (RTI) queries to making the transfer rolls, they are engaged in a lot of paperwork too, over and above their six to eight hour shifts on the city’s roads.
Unlike the traffic police, that has over 5,500 personnel, the government’s transport enforcement team is functioning with less than half its sanctioned strength of 810, data with the department states.
“In the entire department, there is just one ‘enforcement officer’ of ACP rank. There are 70 challaning officers and about 120 head constables, who can issue fines of only ₹100. The rest are those who help in stopping vehicles and taking documents from the drivers,” a senior officer said.
It is only this year that the department got 43 head constables after a 23-year wait. Even in 1995, when the last recruitments were made, only 16 constables were hired.
“We haven’t got new uniforms in more than five years. Since it looks like a police uniform, people take us seriously when we stop them. So it is important,” a sub-inspector said.
Another constable rued that the Delhi government does not provide any compensation, like it does to the police, fire fighters or soldiers, to these enforcement officers despite them losing their lives to unlawful motorists.