Delhi government plans run into controversy
Smart card: A fraud
By Pramod Kumar
After the introduction of smart optical card, Delhiites hoped that they would get rid of the tension of carrying the bundle of documents while driving their vehicle. But when the system practically came into existence in April this year, it proved a headache. The way the system has been introduced in Delhi ignoring all norms and guidelines of the Central Government, it smells of a scam of more than Rs 100 crore.
It was in the year 2000 that the Central government, in a meeting of transport secretaries, decided to introduce an affordable, economical and common information technology in transport sector. For issuing smart cards on standardised software, the Central Motor Vehicle Rules, 1989 were amended. On the basis of the amended rules, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Punjab, Maharashtra and Gujarat states invited tenders for issuing smart cards. But after realising that the tenders were not in conformity with the guidelines, all these states cancelled tenders.
But, despite having all this information, the Congress government of Delhi went ahead and allotted the work of issuing smart optical cards to one Shounkh Technology International Ltd, in April 2005 on a single-bidder basis. In spite of knowing the fact that single tender will lead to corruption and is a violation of the directions issued by Central Government, Delhi government went ahead and favoured the Shounkh company, which has committed a financial fraud to the tune of 700 crore and is still under investigation by CBI (vide diary No. 1/C/30/2004-BS&FC/LO). Here it is worth mentioning that this company is owned by the same Ketan Parikh who is involved in multi-million security scam and is under CBI net. This company appointed an Indore-based Virgo Company, which also has the blessings of a Congress MP from Delhi, to issue cards in Delhi. Interestingly, before issuing the tender, the transport department had invited public opinion and more than 450 people had strongly objected to the scheme. But the government threw all objections into dustbin.
Despite having all this information, the Congress government of Delhi went ahead and allotted the work of issuing smart optical cards to Shounkh Technology International Ltd, in April 2005 on a single-bidder basis.
While replying to a question (No.402) in Parliament in April 2003, the then Union Minister of Surface Transport had clearly said that the government would not allow the introduction of monopoly of foreign technology in transport sector. But it is amazing that Delhi government ignoring all directions of the Central Government allotted the work of issuing registration certificate to the Shounkh company, which has a complete monopoly of a foreign technology. While replying to an un-starred question (No. 3068) in the Rajya Sabha the Union Transport Minister also said that no state government was allowed to amend the Central Motor Vehicle Rules or violate the directions of the Central Government. That is why the governments of Orissa, Haryana, Goa, Rajasthan, Bihar, Jharkhand and Sikkim re-invited tenders as the previous tenders were not as per the directions of the Central Government.
But ignoring all the directions, the Delhi Government amended the Central Motor Vehicle Rules on February 26, 2004 to oblige the Shounkh company. While giving his opinion on this issue, the Attorney General of India, Soli Sorabji on May 22, 2004 had described the amendment by Delhi government in the rules as ?null and void?. But the Attorney General'sopinion does not assume any value for the Congress government of Delhi.
The fraud does not end here. When all state governments are charging between Rs 50 and Rs 100 per card, the Delhi government is charging Rs 370 for the same card. The scam is not one time, rather it continues, as the government charge Rs 370 on every additional entry in the card.
Smart cards being issued in Delhi are based on two technologies and they require two different types of equipments altogether for printing and reading the card. But the state government does not have adequate facilities for it. After the registration of the vehicle, the transport department takes two to four months to issue the smart card. During this period, if one takes one'svehicle out of Delhi, one is treated as if one is driving the vehicle without a registration certificate, inviting fine and humiliation. Sensing all these problems, the governments of West Bengal, Kerala, Karnataka and Punjab cancelled the tenders they had invited.
The Leader of Opposition, Prof. Jagdish Mukhi, in his letter to Lt. Governor of Delhi, Shri B.L. Joshi, on May 27, has given details of financial frauds committed by Shounkh company. Prof Mukhi has demanded a CBI inquiry into the scam. He expressed wonder as to how the government allotted the important work of issuing optical smart cards to such a fraud company that beside others, cheated even the Government of India and several state governments of hundreds of crores rupees. He urged the Lt. Governor to issue an order to put a curb on the issuance of smart cards till the CBI report comes.