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Driving licence to get smart

- Pan-Indian card that will be easy to track

New Delhi, Oct. 14: One nation, one licence.

That’s what the Union ministry of road transport and highways has decided as it gears to introduce a pan-Indian, smart card-like driving licence that will have the same “look and feel”.

“Most licences issued by the 35 state governments and Union territories have different features. Some states have started smart card-based driving licences, while some still issue licences on paper. So how will a traffic police constable in Calcutta know how a driving licence issued by Kerala looks like and whether the driver is carrying a genuine licence,” said a senior ministry official.

The licence, sources said, will be issued not in the name of the state where it is registered but in the name of the Indian Union.

The sources said another problem these cards — designed by the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad — could help tackle was that of “multiple licences”.

There are now an unaccounted number of drivers who hold multiple licences issued from different states. “It becomes difficult to track down an errant driver because of the multiple cards issued in the same name by different authorities,” the official said.

According to accident data released by the ministry, drivers are at fault in 80 per cent of cases. But most of them get away because they cannot be traced.

The Union government has already prepared a central database of driving licences. “Once these rules are notified, all state governments will have to introduce these smart cards within 18 months. The smart cards can then be linked to the central database,” the official added.

As biometric data of applicants are recorded, the authority concerned can check whether a person already has a licence issued by a different state while issuing a new licence.

The notification, which last week got Union road minister C.P. Joshi’s final approval, has obtained all the requisite clearances.

The proposed smart card has several security features built into it. “We have used certain colour patterns, micro texts and other security features to make sure that this card cannot be replicated. If, for some offence, your card has been seized, there is no way you can get a new one by any fraudulent means,” the official added.

The cards will carry the name of the driver in both English and the state’s official language. Other details will include the driver’s blood group.

Only after these smart card licences are in place can the government implement its ambitious scheme of introducing a points system to curb repeat offences. “Eventually, what we want to achieve is that at the click of a mouse, traffic police or transport department officials will have the complete low down on offences committed by a driver since the time he or she was issued the licence,” the ministry official said.

According to the system, points marked for an offence will remain on record for three years from the date of the offence. If the points add up to 12, the person’s licence will be suspended for a year. If the same driver accumulates 12 points again, his licence will be suspended for five years.

What point, or points, will be marked for which offence has not been decided yet.