Poor response to Autorickshaw Display Card System in Dimapur

Morung File Photo

Accumulated road permit, insurance and fitness fees preventing drivers from applying

Morung Express News
Dimapur | March 2

On 16 December, 2023, the Dimapur Police Commissionerate had launched a scheme aimed at streamlining the operation of passenger autorickshaws in Dimapur, Niuland and Chümoukedima. It mandated the autorickshaws compulsorily displaying photo identity cards, on the vehicle, bearing the driver’s photo with name, driving licence number, ID number issued by the drivers’ union, a unique identification code and helpline numbers. 

Besides alleviating traffic congestion, the basic idea of the ‘Autorickshaw Display Card System’ was security. It sought to ensure the safety of the drivers and passengers, preventing/detecting crimes committed via autorickshaws, aiding in the detection of stolen autorickshaws and curbing drivers plying without the mandatory uniform. It also had a revenue ring to it, seeking to put a lid to autorickshaws plying without the proper documentation or permits. It required that only autorickshaws with the requisite and up to date documentation will get the display card implying those without the card will not be able to ply. Time was given till the end of February 2024 to obtain the card. 

Two and a half months on, the police as well as autorickshaw drivers have admitted to the initiative largely being met with disinterest. According to a member of the Dimapur District Autorickshaw Drivers’ Union (DDADU), a similar system was introduced some 5-6 years ago, which though died without much success.

But why? 
Effort made by The Morung Express to comprehend the causes behind the perceived disinterest and poor response from the autorickshaw drivers and proprietors alike,  pointed to unpaid documentation fees accumulated over years. 

The person, who did not wish to be identified, said that, in most cases, many drivers/owners do not renew the permits for plying obtained at the time of purchase. The documents include road permit from the Transport Department and fitness/pollution certificate, in addition to the onetime vehicle registration fee and mandatory insurance policy.  

All vehicles pay a onetime registration fee, besides cyclically renewing insurance and fitness certificate. For commercial vehicles, including passenger autorickshaws, it includes renewing a Road Permit issued by the Transport Department. He claimed that for an autorickshaw, renewing the Road Permit and fitness/pollution certificate, together with a ‘Third Party’ insurance policy amounts to around Rs 6000-7000, annually.  

According to him, a large majority of the autorickshaw drivers are reluctant to apply for the ‘display card’ because they do not possess up to date paperwork. And for those who have not renewed in years, it implies shelling out backlog fees for each year missed. 

“Many of the autorickshaws on the road are old and have been plying without renewing their permit papers. Now, these drivers are reluctant to apply for the Display card because they will be required to pay up the backlog renewal fees, which when totaled  amount to costing as much as a new autorickshaw,” he said. 

Attributing this as the main barrier standing in the way of the ‘Display card’ initiative, he added that Naga drivers have turned out to be the most reluctant. “The problem actually is with the Naga drivers, the non-Nagas do not pose much problem,” he said. 

If the police start enforcing, he said that many will opt to stay off the roads till things cool down. With elections in the offing and with the election office requisitioning for ‘diesel autorickshaws,’ he added that it has given the drivers all the more reason to temporarily stay off the roads. 

As per the DDADU, roughly 600-700 autorickshaws ply the roads per day. The Union is said to have approximately 3000-4000 autorickshaws in its registry. Barely a hundred drivers is said to have obtained the ‘display card’ to date. 

As for the police, it said that the response has been really poor. The Commissioner of Police informed that it will start enforcement soon.