The high-security registration plate centre at Old DTO office in Ranchi. Picture by Hardeep Singh
Jharkhand is like a pampered child, abandoning every old toy for a new one.
While state transport mandarins are exuberant over installing GPS tracking devices on public transport, apparently to enhance safety of women passengers, the two-year-old high-security registration plate project has sunk into oblivion despite being mandated by the Supreme Court to make vehicles tamper-proof.
Admonished on more than one occasion for missing deadline, the transport department in May 2012 formally kicked off the chip-enabled number plate drive from the state capital.
Ghaziabad-based firm Agros Impex Private Limited was selected through a tender and awarded the job. However, within three months, the department divorced the agency.
The contract was terminated in August that year, citing inefficiency and delay on the part of Agros Impex, although the agency had churned out around 8,000 high-security registration plates across the state by then. Transport officials categorically claimed that the production was “below average”.
The tug of war between the department and the agency escalated in September when the latter, unwilling to take the blame of the project fiasco, dragged transport bosses to Jharkhand High Court and alleged lack of co-operation on their part from the beginning.
The same month, the department floated another tender. In December 2012, Gurgaon-based Rosmerta Technologies Private Limited was chosen to take over the vehicle security project, adding insult to the former agency’s injury.
Even before the new firm could debut, a wounded Agros Impex launched a series of attacks through letters to then chief minister Arjun Munda, besides the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) and Jharkhand High Court. It alleged that Rosmerta adopted “fraudulent means” to bag the tender and had a nexus with a section of transport officials.
In May 2013, the high court ruled in favour of the aggrieved agency, directing the department to clear dues and reinstate it. That is when anyone last heard about the high-security registration plate project.
Transport secretary Sajal Chakraborty — who doubles up as the state’s officiating chief secretary and is known to be a strict taskmaster in bureaucratic circles — strangely pleaded ignorance about the ambitious project, which being pushed to the cold storage means direct violation of an SC order.
“Frankly speaking, I don’t know much about the status of HSRP at the moment. But, I will ask my officials to look into the matter,” he said briefly.
Incumbent transport commissioner Manoj Kumar was equally vague in his comment.
“The department is yet to look into the matter afresh as there are many issues involved with it and needs careful assessment and planning. At the moment, nothing is happening at that front. We will soon look into it,” he echoed Chakraborty.