At a time when Prime Minister Narendra Modi has initiated moves to end the country’s VIP culture, bureaucrats in the Chandigarh Administration, which is directly under the central government, found a new way to favour themselves with high-end numbers for their cars — causing hundreds of thousands of rupees in losses to the public exchequer. Under fire from the media, activists and others for the unprecedented move to oblige themselves and other officers, the Chandigarh Administration on Tuesday rolled back the earlier notification allowing officers to reserve or block VIP numbers for themselves.
Through a notification issued in March, the Chandigarh Administration allowed “dignitaries/officers” to take a number of their choice from the registration series. Transport Secretary K.K. Jindal, who controls the registration and licensing authority (RLA), got the number “CH01-BM-0001” reserved in the new series for the Toyota Crysta MPV (multi-purpose vehicle) in the name of his wife.
The number, which could have fetched hundreds of thousands of rupees for the government through an open auction, was withdrawn from the auction list of the new ‘CH01-BM’ series announced earlier this month. The numbers offered for auction were from ‘0002’ to ‘9999’. The registration for auction of the new series will be done from May 11 to 17. Jindal who, sources say, has now surrendered the number that he had blocked, had to dish out a partly Rs 5,000 for a number that goes for Rs 5 to10 lakh and is quite a craze in Chandigarh.
The VIP or vanity registration numbers for motor vehicles, especially cars, fetch high auction prices from the public. The number, for many, is a status symbol. The highest amount for the VIP number “0001” was a staggering Rs 26.5 lakh paid by farmer-landlord Amarjit Singh for his high-end Rs 90-lakh Mercedes S-class in August 2012.
In June 2012, businessman Jagjit Singh Chahal bid Rs 17 lakh for CH-01-AN-0001 for his car. In April 2012, controversial former Haryana Director General of Police S.P.S. Rathore paid Rs 10 lakh for registration number CH-01-AM-0001 for the Mercedes he bought for his lawyer wife.
The “0001” number has a reserve price of Rs 50,000 in Chandigarh. Jindal, being an officer in the administration, was exempted even from paying the reserve price and was to pay only the fee of Rs 5,000. “On an average, the ‘0001’ number goes for anything from Rs 5 to 10 lakh. The lowest bid in recent years was at Rs 70,000 for this number,” an RLA official told IANS. In February, the “0001” number of the “CH-O1-BL” series went for Rs 6.70 lakh.
“The dignitaries/officers in Chandigarh Motor Vehicle Rules shall be eligible for allotment of such registration marks for the vehicle to be registered in their own (or spouse’s) name without payment of any additional fee limited to only two registration marks during their service tenure. However, the sale/transfer of ownership of a vehicle bearing such a registration mark to a non-eligible person, within one year of its initial registration, shall be allowed only after payment of the reserve price, stated a press release of the administration dated March 22, quoting the amended notification.
The notification allows officers/dignitaries to reserve VIP numbers twice in their service tenure. IAS and IPS officers come to Chandigarh on a deputation of two to three years. Activists have written to Chandigarh Administrator V.P. Singh Badnore saying that the move by the officers was against the norm of a level playing field. They have even suggested that the administration keep the reserve price of single digit VIP numbers at Rs 5 lakh, on the pattern of Haryana and Delhi.