In symbolic terms the law that regulates motor vehicles and licensing in India is demanding a degree in rocket science to be eligible to be a driver for public transport.
According to the 2007 amendment to the Motor Vehicles Act, a driver for public transport – autorickshaws or buses – is required to have passed Class 8 and be above 20 years of age. But for private vehicles however, a driver’s licence is granted at the age of 18 years.
President of Bijapur district auto-drivers’ union, Mohammed Gulab Mohammed Abbas Bhandari said: “Traffic rules are universal and are all in symbols too and we understand them very well.”
Autorickshaw drivers at least, are an unhappy lot as they have had to often resort to illegal means to obtain licenses to earn a livelihood.
“If the law is not reconsidered, more than 95 percent of auto drivers in the Bijapur district might be branded ineligible to ride auto rickshaws in the city,” says Mohammed Gulab Mohammed Abbas Bhandari, president of Bijapur district auto-drivers’ union.
In a raid in December 2015, Bengaluru city police caught over 700 auto drivers without the proper documentation or license. “Every auto-driver has to pay a fine of Rs 2000 and that is a big amount for these people,” he said.
Karnataka convenor of Aam Aadmi Party, Prithvi Reddy, who has been running a campaign since December 2015 to reverse the rule, said that the conditions do not make sense.
“When hardly 10 percent of the Members of Parliament have passed tenth grade, why make a rule for people who are taking up a job they are compelled to do to earn an honest living?” Reddy said.
However, Bhandari says that there is a caveat. The district’s deputy commissioner and the superintendent of police can also give the drivers an eligibility certificate and issue them a license. However, this has provided ample scope for corruption.
“People are finding illegal ways to get a job that needs just driving skills and understanding of rules for which one does not necessarily be educated,” Reddy said.
He added: “There is a license racket that is being run by driving school, and these auto-drivers get stuck in that because though they pay a bribe to get a fake education certificate, they don’t get their license from the RTO once they find out.”
Reddy says that during an anti-corruption campaign an auto-driver told him that he was harassed by RTO officials because he not have the necessary educational qualifications. The Karnataka unit of AAP has started a signature campaign against this rule and would be submitting the petition to Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari.
Transport Commissioner, Rame Gowda said that this was not a new rule and has been there from the beginning. “It has been followed by the RTO ever since. If anybody finds a driver who has not passed eighth standard, then the driver must have got his badge by illegal means.”