BH series number plates will come into effect from 15 September. The Government of India has already announced that the BH series of vehicle registration will allow a seamless transfer of private vehicles from one state to another. Although the scheme will not directly impact the transport industry in a big way just yet, it’s a positive beginning, and if implemented in the right way and with the right intentions, it could eliminate a lot of ‘middlemen’. Just like the GST eliminated such ‘middlemen’ at the Octroi nakas that harassed transporters no end.
Let me begin by expanding a bit more on the BH, or Bharat Series. At present, when a person relocates to another state and applies to take his/her vehicle along, he/she has to first get the NOC from the state where the vehicle is currently registered. The government calls it the “parent state” of the vehicle. The parent state’s NOC is a must for the assignment of new registration in another state.
Then there’s the issue of paying vehicle tax to the new state, and applying for a refund on tax from the parent state, because when one buys and registers a new personal vehicle, the state government, or the parent state, charges the road tax upfront for the whole registered life of the vehicle, which is 15 years.
The government of India has, at last, understood that this process of getting a refund from the parent state is a very long-winding, cumbersome process. It also varies from one state to another. One has to wade their way through the bureaucratic maze of the Regional Transport Offices and encounter several hurdles.
In order to free vehicle owners from all this hassle, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has notified Bharat series of “BH” series of registration which people can opt for. The new system of allotting BH series registration to vehicles will be completely online without the vehicle owner having to figure out a complicated red-tape. The government, by amending Rule 47 of the Central Motor Vehicle Rules, 1989, has mandated that vehicles bearing the BH registration mark will not require to be re-registered in a new state once it relocates.
Right now, the scheme is only extended to those working in government or Public Sector Undertakings In the private sector, employees of companies that have offices in at least four states/UTs are eligible to get the BH number on a voluntary basis.
What about transporters?
As I mentioned earlier, the BH registration scheme has not been extended to everyone in its full form yet, including the transport industry. Once transporters are brought under its umbrella, there will be a lot more transparency between the regional transport offices (RTOs) and transporters. Let me give you an example. As per the government rules, a private vehicle gets up to 12 months to change the registration from the parent state to the new state.
It is a fact that on any given day, between 5,000 and 10,000 trucks bearing registration numbers of other states are operating in metro cities such as Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata. This is where truck drivers and RTOs inevitably clash because there is no way to ascertain if a vehicle with the registration number of a different state is operating in that particular city for long. Many a time, a truck from a different state has entered Mumbai for, say, three months, and the RTO officials will penalise the driver for not getting the vehicle re-registered in Maharashtra.
With the BH scheme entirely online, it will take just a click of the phone button to find out when the truck actually crossed over the state border.
There is also the problem of overzealous government personnel extorting and penalising truckers on the flimsiest of excuses once the trucks start moving. The reasons could be insurance premiums, goods tax, road tax and so on.
Often, state officials on the road simply ignore the Ministry of Home Affairs’ order to all states allowing transport of both essential and non-essential goods. The Ministry’s order sometimes just does not percolate to the ground level, and trucks get stopped at various state borders. A one-stop registration under the BH scheme will instantly eliminate all such problems.
Having said that, there are many a hurdle to cross before we see a seamless transition from long-winding paperwork to an online process fully driven by technology. For instance, it is still not clear whether the state RTOs will issue the BH registration mark or whether a separate Central government mechanism will be used for the same. If the latter, it will also be interesting to see how state governments will react, considering the already burning matter of the Central government encroaching into areas that are the prerogative of states, like health and co-operative societies.
Overall, I feel that it is time to embrace technology if we want to do business in the time of the Covid-19 pandemic. The economy today demands that technical enhancements create more opportunities by removing obstacles on the ground. The BH scheme is the right beginning. It’s time to move it forward quickly.
Author: Nilesh Ghule, Co-Founder and CEO, TruckBhejo
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author. These views and opinions do not represent those of The Indian Express Group or its employees.
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