Corruption down revenue up


Overloaded trucks are now checked online at check-posts in Gujarat and fined for offences
In Gujarat, a team of techno-savvy bureaucrats have succeeded in bringing corruption under check by effectively using electronic devices at some 10 remote interstate border check-posts and consequently increasing state’s tax revenues.
Until now in Gujarat, inspection of 100% of commercial vehicles had been impossible with check-post inspectors being notoriously corrupt. The drive to curb the number of overloaded vehicles has only proved to be ineffective. In order to maximise their earnings from each vehicle, Trucking companies have prompted transporters to load their trucks beyond permissible axle load thus creating a serious safety hazard. In Gujarat’s traditional check-post system, a suspect vehicle is flagged to a stop, and then weighed on a weigh-bridge located away from traffic. The legal penalty for overload is Rs 2,000 per ton.
The State Transport department introduced SMART card drivers’ licenses. The IT project included the use of computers and communication networks to collect fines from overloaded vehicles. In the computerised process, all the check-posts are monitored at a central location using video cameras installed at every check-post cabin.
The video camera captures the registration number of all trucks approaching the check-post. Software converts the video image of the registration number to a digital form and the details of the truck are accessed from a central database. An electronic weigh-bridge captures the weight and the computer automatically issues a demand note for fine. Drivers can use a stored value card for payment. Future plans include integrating payment of sales tax on the goods carried by the vehicles.
The new system has teething problems. Currently, the central database is being created, and for many vehicles it still does not hold the requisite details. Hence, the operator uses his judgment and, depending on the make of the vehicle, selects the permissible weight from a drop-down selection box.
The leased line connectivity is currently available at only 2 check-posts (Shamlaji and Bhilad, the two largest one). The centralised video monitoring is therefore not working properly.
The writing and pattern of license plates is often non-standard and not in compliance with the law. Hence, the license tracking software has not worked properly. Now, trucks with non-standard number plates are required to replace them at the check-post.
The new system has produced three-fold increase in tax collection over 2 years. Revenue increased from US $12 million to US $35 million, paying back the total project cost of US $4 million in just six months. On average, vehicles are cleared in 2 minutes instead of 30 in the manual system.
Harassment of truckers continues, abetted by the problems with the video monitoring system. The large and medium transport owners are definitely happy with the system because they can now know the exact date and time their driver passed the check-post. The pre-paid card means that the driver does not have to carry much money.
The success of this project depends on several factors that include role of top political leadership i.e. the Chief Minister, skilful management of special interest by bureaucrats, reducing discretion to the minimum, education of clients (drivers and transporters), and integration with other departments such as Sales Tax etc


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