Is the approximate number of drivers that the 48 driving schools registered with the public vehicles department in Calcutta churn out every month. No wonder Lewis Hamilton saw so many cars on the roads!
Is the maximum number of motor vehicle inspectors who conduct the driving test at Maddox Square on weekdays between 2pm and 5pm.
Is the average time a motor vehicle inspector spends assessing each candidate’s driving skills.
Motor training schools in Calcutta are in the business of fast-tracking driving licences for their students rather than imparting the skills to drive safely, admit transport officials.
The hurry to help a student clear a farcical driving test that lasts all of two minutes means that the process of learning how to drive becomes secondary, if not dangerously compromised.
“The focus of motor training schools has shifted from imparting driving skills to making money. To maximise their profits, they are resorting to assembly-line production,” said an official of the public vehicles department in Beltala, under which 48 such registered institutes flourish.
The city has 48 licensed motor schools, of which around 10 have multiple branches and a large fleet of training vehicles. Their nexus with PVD officials ensures that anybody enrolling for a course in driving is guaranteed a licence, irrespective of how he or she does in the test.
The result? Accidents involving inadequately trained drivers have become common.
An eight-year-old boy on his way back from school was crushed against a wall by a car being reversed in a Lake Town lane on October 5. University student Shreya Sarbadhikary, who was at the wheel, possessed a driving licence but allegedly not the skills to reverse a car in a narrow lane.
On Sunday, Soumyadip Banerjee, a bank executive with a learner’s licence, ran over and killed a woman and injured four pedestrians on a Behala road. Like Shreya, his foot found the accelerator instead of the brake pedal when he needed to stop the car to avoid a porter going across the road (Denied bail, Page 18).
The manager of a motor training institute in Esplanade said it was not the trainer’s fault if anyone he had taught did not drive safely. “We are not sure how you will drive after you complete our course but we will make sure you have the licence to drive.”
The target is to enrol the maximum number of people at the end of each cycle. “Since competition is stiff, we offer competitive rates. We get more learners than we have trainers and cars,” said the owner of a Shyambazar institute.
Bimal Guha, a former secretary of the Motor Training Schools’ Welfare Association, said eight to 10 drivers a week was good business for any training school until two decades ago. “Today, even the smaller ones produce 20 to 30 drivers a week. The larger institutes average 70 to 80.”
Metro, which had highlighted the farce of a driving test before, visited Maddox Square in south Calcutta again recently and found that little has changed.
By 2pm, around 300 candidates from various driving schools in the city were in the queue for the driving test, awaiting the arrival of the three motor vehicle inspectors. The trio came around 2.30pm and representatives of various driving schools immediately surrounded them, each carrying a sheaf of applications. The test started 20 minutes.
Applicants from each driving school were lined up separately so that they could drive a car belonging to their institute. One inspector would sit to the left of the driver and a representative of the driving school would stand beside the vehicle.
On cue, the trainee driver would start the car, shift gear, press the accelerator and release the clutch. A blink-and-you-miss 10-metre drive later, the inspector would ask the candidate to stop.
A question about a particular traffic signal would follow, the last hurdle to becoming a licensed driver in less than two minutes!
“On any given day, more than 400 people come for the driving test. It is humanly not possible for three MVIs to test everybody properly,” an official said.
So why not increase the number of motor vehicle inspectors? “More the number of MVIs, smaller the money share. Hence, there is resistance from the MVIs the moment someone suggests increasing the strength of the team!” a source in the PVD said.
Were you trained to drive safely before you got your