The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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It is really a question of trust. And Indians seem to have lost most of it in the eyes of the rest of the world. From illegal immigration in Britain to driving hazardously in the United Arab Emirates, international regulatory bodies tend to look at Indians with suspicious eyes. This is, of course, a shame. More ignominious is the manner in which the Central government takes heed of such ubiquitous regulatory corruption only under pressure from abroad. International driving licences will soon cease to be a procurable commodity in India. Coughing up a bribe can easily acquire one from the regional automobile association, without having to prove one’s capacity to drive on either side of the road. This will be toughened up. Stringents tests will have to be cleared in order to get the international licence. This is not exactly a disinterested and humane concern for safety. It is just that most countries that matter economically to Indians have stopped recognizing Indian driving licences as the basis on which international licences could be issued. It is more or less universally accepted that Indian licences are the fruit of dishonesty and corruption, to put it bluntly. Hence, a hasty damage control mechanism has to be put in place — and in the process, it is hoped that this tarnished image of Indian integrity and reliability will be somewhat rectified.

Driving tests, for national as well as international drivers, must be made far more strict and uniform — not only for India’s international reputation, but also for the safety of Indian citizens. Vaastu shastra seems to be a far more important component of the modern Indian idea of civilization than clean hospitals, breatheable air or safe roads on which pedestrians do not have to fear dying gruesome deaths. The issuing of licences is, for this reason, usually divorced from the normal civilized considerations of law-abiding citizenship, and has become a matter of working a corrupt system. Stricter tests for international licences will certainly have a sort of trickle-down effect on the general level of safety within the country. But this method of bringing back law and order on the country’s roads is rather indirect, and a bit of pragmatic nationalism is perhaps not entirely a bad thing in this matter. It is important for the prestige of the nation that Indian drivers, and regulatory bodies, be trusted by the rest of the world. But it is more important for the state to ensure safety on the roads through proper driving tests. The priorities should not get lopsided here.

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