The Telegraph
Monday , March 11 , 2013
Since 1st March, 1999
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Smart vehicles stuck in limbo

Delay is destiny in Jharkhand. And the high-security registration plate (HSRP) project is no exception.

The file to allow a new agency take up the job of churning out the smart number plates is apparently waiting for a go-ahead from Raj Bhavan for two weeks now though the governor’s men claim they have little role to play in this registration brouhaha.

A week ago, joint transport commissioner R.K. Ram had conceded that it was difficult to say when the project might resume. “The file has been sent to the governor’s adviser more than 10 days ago. Everything depends on how soon we get a nod only after which we can issue a work order to the selected agency,” he had said.

However, principal secretary to governor N.N. Sinha had contended that he wasn’t aware of any such file coming to Raj Bhavan. “It is not in our knowledge so far. Moreover, execution of a project completely depends on the department concerned. I don’t think the Raj Bhavan has any role to play. If the agency has been selected, then the department secretary will have to issue the work order,” he said.

Incidentally, transport department secretary S.S. Tiwari retired on February 28. His successor, S.S. Meena who took charge on March 4, could not be reached on Sunday. But, an employee at the transport secretary-cum-commissioner’s office confirmed that a nod was awaited.

The Supreme Court enforced HSRP project is mandatory nationwide to prevent theft and misuse of vehicles. But playing true to its reputation, the state continues to lag behind.

After several missed deadlines and repeated admonishment from the apex court, the secure number plates had debuted in Ranchi around April last year. But, even before services of the government-selected agency — Agros Impex Private Limited — could gain pace, its contract was terminated by the transport department in August for alleged inefficiency.

By then, roughly 8,000 HSRPs were churned out across the state, which transport mandarins maintained was way below the assigned target. Department officials also claimed that the agency did not possess proper technology and equipment to carry out the task of embossing and affixing the number plates.

A month later, a fresh hunt began for an agency and after cancellation of tenders twice, Gurgaon-based Rosemarta Technologies Private Limited was selected around November-end.

Since then, the stalemate continues and transport officials blame it on political instability. “The file had been sent to the then minister (Champai Soren), but it first remained unattended for a month and then the government fell,” an official said.

Meanwhile, spurned agency Agros Impex moved Jharkhand High Court, challenging the transport department’s decision. It also alleged that the new firm selected was a tainted one from Himachal Pradesh and not Gurgaon.

Transport officials, however, deny the allegations, saying that the new agency has been selected through a transparent tender process. “It is true that the earlier firm has taken the matter to court and the latter has recently given us a 15-day deadline to respond with details on why the contract was terminated. The department will do the needful,” Ram said.

Should the court intervene to get the HSRP project started?