|Applicants queue up at the block office in Patna on August 17, a day after the raid and (above) the chaos returns to the centre on Wednesday. Picture by Deepak Kumar
Touts are back with a bang at offices supposed to provide services to people within a stipulated time after going into hiding for nearly three weeks following the district administration’s raids.
The middlemen resurfaced at the district transport office (DTO) and the block office in the state capital on Wednesday, fleecing innocent people on the pretext of getting their job done faster. Ignorant about the Right to Public Service (RTPS) Act, several men and women are getting trapped.
Under the RTPS Act, people are entitled to certain services within a stipulated time at government offices. There is provision under the act to take action against the officials failing to provide the service within the deadline. Yet, touts fleeced people promising to get their work done faster.
On August 16, the district administration had conducted raids at all the 23 blocks of Patna and arrested 12 middlemen from the block offices and the DTO. Nearly three weeks on, touts were back to business.
On Wednesday, The Telegraph found middlemen on the prowl at the block office near Gandhi Maidan and the DTO at Biscomaun Tower. They were fleecing people outside the DTO as well as inside in the presence of police personnel deputed there.
Whenever touts spotted somebody approaching the DTO, they promised the person faster service in lieu of money.
“What do you want? A learner’s licence or a permanent licence? I can get a learner’s licence for you in just six days and a permanent licence in 15 days. You will not have to submit any application, nor will you have to be physically present during the driving test. If you like the offer, just meet me on other side of the road with money,” a tout told a prospective customer.
The man could not resist himself and followed the tout to get the work done without any hassle.
Under the RTPS Act, the learner’s licence is supposed to be delivered within 15 days. The permanent driving licence is issued a month after the driving test.
While ignorant people fall in the trap of the touts promising quick service, a section of people seek their help to avoid the hassle of queuing up before counters and running from one table to another.
Rajesh Kapoor, a resident of Kankerbagh, said: “I don’t think I will get the licence in the stipulated timeframe under RTPS Act. So, it is better to go through the channel of a middleman. At least I will not have to run here and there.”
The middlemen charge Rs 350 to Rs 450 for two-wheeler and four-wheeler learner’s licence. Officially, they are available for just Rs 140.
Similarly, the touts charge customers Rs 1,200 to Rs 1,500 for permanent licence that can be made for Rs 440.
Cut to the block office near Gandhi Maidan, where certificates of caste, income, pension and land mutation among others are issued. The scene was the same. Touts were all around.
Vikram Kumar (29), a resident of North Mandiri, looked nervous after applying for income and cast certificates.
“Why do we need to pay to these middlemen for getting our things done? The aged man standing at the corner of the window is asking Rs 300 for the certificates. But the charge for each certificate is just Rs 10.”
The claim of Vikram was correct. When The Telegraph approached the tout for an income certificate, he said: “You will be charged Rs 300 for that and I will give you the certificate in a week. Under the RTPS Act, you are entitled to get it in 21 days. But there is no guarantee that you will get it within the timeframe.”
District magistrate Sanjay Kumar Singh was disappointed to learn from The Telegraph that the middlemen were once again active at the DTO and the block office in the state capital. He appealed to people to not take the help of the touts.
Sanjay said: “Continuous raids are the only solution to curb the tout menace, but it is practically impossible to conduct search operations everyday. But as you have informed me, I will ensure that once again raids are conducted at all such places where middlemen are active. They cannot just play with the RTPS Act.”