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Twin blows to Beltala tout belt

The stranglehold of touts in the Beltala office of the public vehicles department is about to be broken.

The Mamata Banerjee government is making the PVD’s Kasba office fully operational after keeping it almost unused for more than a year amid protests by the touts in Beltala who stand to lose their clout.

A third office will open in Salt Lake, land for which has been identified near the Wipro office in Sector V.

While there is no guarantee that people visiting a PVD office would no longer have to approach touts for everything from registration to road tax payment, the decision to “declutter” Beltala could make various services easier to access and faster.

“The idea is to ensure better service to citizens,” said Alapan Bandyopadhyay, secretary of the transport department. “Once the offices in Kasba and Salt Lake start functioning, Beltala will be catering to only the notified areas.”

The Kasba office, located off the Ruby rotary, is ready but the one in Salt Lake might take some time to become operational.

The transport department has already drawn up a list of the areas to be covered by each of the PVDs. A meeting has been convened on Thursday to discuss how to immediately make the Kasba centre, which was inaugurated in December 2011, fully functional.

The jurisdiction of the two new PVDs has been worked out on the basis of police stations.

Areas under the Kasba, Bansdroni, Garfa, Patuli, Pragati Maidan, Purba Jadavpur, Survey Park, Tiljala and Topsia police stations will shift from Beltala to the Kasba office. Neighbourhoods under 10 police stations in north Calcutta — from Sinthee to Narkeldanga along with the whole of Salt Lake — will be covered by the Salt Lake office.

Residents of Salt Lake currently need to register their vehicles or get driving licences from the regional transport office in Barasat. Once the PVD office in the township starts functioning, it will not only spare people the trouble of travelling more than 20km but also potentially reduce the waiting period for various services.

Calcutta has expanded over the years but its dependence on a lone PVD office has increased the might of the touts who prey on anyone visiting Beltala.

“Travelling all the way from Bansdroni to Beltala to get a vehicle registered or a licence made is a pain. Once Kasba becomes fully functional, the distance will be cut by several kilometres,” an official of the transport department said.

The PVD office in Beltala handles around 50,000 registrations annually and has a database of over seven lakh registered vehicles. “Whether it is a registration, a fitness certificate for a vehicle or a driving licence, there is little you can do without the touts,” said Rajeev Khemka of Ballygunge. “If you don’t pay, be prepared to go round in circles.”

Calcuttans would be hoping that a divided workload makes touts redundant.