Nearly two months since Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh’s announcement to do away with the post of District Transport Officers (DTO), the state government is yet to finalise the blueprint to abolish the post and put an alternative system in place.
Abolishing the post of DTOs and transferring the powers of DTOs to sub-divisional magistrates was one of the key decisions of Amarinder government in its first cabinet meeting on March 18.
In the run up to elections, Congress leader Sunil Jakhar – Jakhar is now the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee president – had said that posts of DTOs had become synonymous with “den of corruption” and that after being voted to power, the government would abolish the posts.
Sources told to media. that the government was now thinking to bifurcate the non-commercial and commercial works, dividing those between sub-divisional magistrates and Regional Transport Authorities.
The non-commercial works will cover cars and two wheelers, while commercial works will cover operations on a bigger scale involving bus permits and collection of taxes from commercial vehicles among other things.
According to sources, the government was mulling over to have at least ten Regional Transport Authorities (RTAs). Currently, there are four RTAs in Patiala, Bathinda, Jalandhar and Ferozepur.
After the Amarinder-government had announced the abolition of posts of DTOs, a four-member team of transport department officials was tasked to study practices prevalent in the adjoining states, Himachal Pradesh and Haryana.
The team has already submitted its reports.
“Yes, there is a proposal to increase the number of RTAs and divide the operations between non-commercial and commercial,” said Punjab Transport Secretary Sarvjeet Singh. He, however, added that nothing was finalised yet.
An official, however, said putting in place an alternate system by abolishing posts of DTOs was a “tall order”.
“There are a number of SDMs in many districts. Dividing the work between them would be an uphill task, especially when not all data of the transport department has been computerised yet and officials still have to rely on checking records manually through registers.
Sometimes, you have only one register pertaining to particular data. For example licenses which are to be renewed,” said an official.
“It is not correct to associate the post of DTOs with corruption. DTOs have a lot to do. The monthly targets of revenue set by government are huge in many districts. I think the transport department is the second biggest department after excise and taxation department as far as generating revenue for the state is concerned. I do not think DTOs can be done away with. At the most, there could be a change of designation,” said an official who has worked as a DTO in the past.