Many roadblocks to getting a PUC certificate for your vehicle

Under new rule, vehicles owners have to pay heavy fines if they fail to get a pollution test done. But, the system to get a PUC certificate remains flawed.

Recently, there’s been news that the new traffic challan system will mandate a Rs 10,000 penalty on old or new vehicles if owners don’t acquire the Pollution Under Control (PUC) certification on time. To tackle expired certificates, the system will use CCTV surveillance to identify non-compliant vehicles and flag them for blacklisting from registration. The rule ultimately has several drawbacks, given the difficulty in acquiring PUC certificates in the first place.

The number of PUC centres in Chennai has reduced drastically with only a handful still operational. Only the petrol bunk-owned PUC centres charge the customers based on the tariff announced by the government; the rest of them charge a higher fee because they get only a few customers for PUC tests.

High tariffs and lack of accountability at centres

I recently renewed the PUC certification for my two-wheeler at the Ayanavaram Petrol bunk opposite Bharat Petroleum station on Medavakkam Tank Road. The government tariff for a PUC document for a two-wheeler is Rs 60 but the PUC centre official wanted me to pay him Rs 100. I have had a similar experience with the same bunk in the past. The receipt issued by the government-recognised PUC certification centre will not show the amount that is charged.

Read more: Mileage, check. Colour, check. Did you check emissions from your new vehicle?

Being an activist and a vigilant customer, I keep myself updated and therefore it was easier for me to address my concerns with the operator and get him to refund the excess fee he wanted to charge.
The PUC centre near the RTO Chennai North went one step ahead and fixed their rubber stamp exactly over the space where the Fee and GST details have to be mentioned.

PUC certificate
PUC certificate issued at the centre next to RTO Chennai North. Pic: Raghukumar Choodamani.

The Petrol Bunk in Spur Tank Road located opposite Annalakshmi Restaurant on the other hand only charges the fee announced by the government because it is operated by the bunk owners.
The irony is that only some of the vehicles have been linked with the mobile numbers at the RTO.

The operator at the Ayanavaram Bunk says he gets only a handful of customers and it is impossible for him to pay the rent for the space, absorb the costs involved in maintaining the equipment and pay the salaries of staff. Several PUC centres have closed because it was no longer viable for them to keep running their operation.

Possible solutions for getting a PUC certificate

  • The government must make it mandatory for all older vehicles to obtain a PUC and put in place a proper monitoring mechanism to check if they are operating based on the guidelines laid down by the government.
  • A proper tariff card should be displayed in every PUC centre and customers must be vigilant to check if the receipt issued includes the fee amount and GST.
  • Sending messages to owners of the bikes or cars selectively reminding them to get the PUC certification done is inconvenient. Instead, a mechanism should be put in place, where every vehicle owned by a citizen is linked to mobile phones, the Aadhar card and the driver’s licence.
  • The government must first ensure that there are enough, fully operational PUC centres within the city, if they expect commuters to get their certificates renewed well in time.
  • A penalty of Rs 10,000 would make sense as long as the government takes the necessary steps to reopen pollution checking units at all the petrol bunks across the city.

Additional issues to address before implementing the rule

The process for various services such as online renewal of a driver’s licence, getting a fitness certificate, renewing the registration, and paying the green tax are all complicated. Especially in Tamil Nadu, even if we manage to fill in the details for these documents, and upload them, we find it difficult to complete the online payment. The driving school agents use a different link and manage to complete it in no time.

I renewed my car’s registration, and fitness certificate and also paid the green tax through a driving school recently. While a receipt was issued for approximately Rs 5,000, he never issued a receipt towards the green tax fee paid towards the fitness certificate.

Five years ago, I paid the green tax for my car while renewing my fitness certificate, however, it was not updated in the system and I was asked to pay the outstanding green tax for the second time. The lack of transparency and honesty within our system is a matter of grave concern.

As a result, we are forced to take the help of middlemen to complete these basic transactions, pay hefty amounts to overcome hurdles and also pay for the number of trips to the RTO. Corrupt practices within the RTO across Tamil Nadu are no hidden secret and no one from the ranks of the State or Central administration seems to be interested in addressing these issues, which affect the lives of every common man on the street.

Read more: Ignorance, corruption or lax policing: What ails PUC checks of Chennai’s 54 lakh vehicles?

Roadblocks to get a fitness certificate/driver’s licence renewed

Whenever I have approached the RTO officials directly, they try their best to delay even the simplest processes. They say the documents have not been filed properly. They suggest that we go to the brokers sitting outside the RTO office and seek their help.

The nexus between the officials and the brokers is very deeply entrenched in the system. If we go in-person we have to spend the whole day running from one desk to another and wait in a queue to be called in. If we go through the middlemen, it only takes 10 to 15 minutes to complete the work and the updated license gets door delivered. In addition, you end up paying a premium to save your time.
Shoddy implementation of the procedure.

The issue is that systems and platforms in place to provide certificates such as the No Objection Certificate (NOC) are riddled with roadblocks; they aren’t user-friendly, and require a lot of money and time from those requiring the documentation. Take the issuance of High Security Registration Plates (HSRP).

Only a few states like Daman and Diu, Delhi, and Himachal Pradesh, among others have implemented the HSRP rule in earnest. States like Tamil Nadu have not synced their RTO servers with the main servers and we are just unable to enjoy the same benefits being extended to the citizens elsewhere in the country.

Problems to get an HSRP

My son is working in Bengaluru and wants to buy a new car. I own a car, which was rarely used and wanted him to take it to Bengaluru and use it for another 4–5 years before buying a new vehicle.
The Karnataka government has mandated the use of the HSRP number plates. I approached the local RTO through the driving school and also contacted the only authorised supplier of HSRP in Chennai to replace the existing one.

Read more: Explainer: How to get HSRP done in Karnataka

It’s the RTO and Enforcement officials who will deal with commuters from other states with HSRP Number Plates for older vehicles. On the one hand, the government wants to have a seamless movement of people across the country in search of greener pastures. Yet, they are adding several roadblocks that prevent the same.

I was informed that the Tamil Nadu government is yet to roll out the policy document for the same as far as old vehicles are concerned. I tried to get an HSRP Number plate from SIAM (Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers) through their online portal. The drop-down menu to select the state does not include Tamil Nadu. How are we supposed to get the number plates replaced?

These hurdles create quite stressful situations and contribute to a system, which is ridden with loopholes for the officials and middlemen to take advantage of citizens.

We humbly urge the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways to first fix all the flaws within the system and ensure that every vehicle, old or new, adheres to all the norms before rolling out new rules.

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  1. Raghukumar Choodamani says:

    Sunday happens to be the day when most of the residents will be able to spare their time to get the PUC done but most of the centers remain closed on Sundays.

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