New number plates: The good and bad

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t has been made mandatory that, beginning next April, all new vehicles will come with pre-fitted high-security registration plates (HSRP). The ministry of road transport and highways has issued a notification amending the Central Motor Vehicles Rules, under which all manufacturers are required to install the secure number plates before the vehicles are rolled out of the production facility. Owners of old cars can also opt for the new plates, but they have two years to compulsorily make the change.

The new plates come with several security features. Made out of aluminium and wrapped in reflective tapes, these are tamper-proof and are equipped with chrome-based, hot-stamp, self-destructive holograms, along with an image of the Ashoka Chakra and a retro-reflective film bearing a verification inscription, ‘India’, at a 45° inclination. The permanent identification number of a minimum 7 digits will be laser branded into the reflective sheeting. The plates are also fixed with tamper-proof, non-removable, non-reusable snap locks, which will break on any attempt to remove the plates. Additionally, a third registration plate in the form of a chromium hologram sticker will have to be affixed on the bottom-left side of the windshield on the inside. Such details as the registration number, the registering authority, a laser-branded PIN and engine and chassis numbers will be part of this sticker.

The new system is expected to bring down the number of vehicle thefts and frauds drastically, as well as help create a national database of vehicles. But it presents major logistical problems, which may not have been thought through. The record of our bureaucracy in this respect is quite dismal. There have been instances of even rudimentary matters having been left out. The experience with GST is before us, where the implementation gave nightmares to stakeholders at all levels, including traders, consumers and even the official machinery enforcing the new system.

The number plates are mostly fitted on the bumpers, which are the most vulnerable parts of a vehicle. With the plate secured with non-usable snap locks, any damage to the plate could lead to a lot of inconvenience to the vehicle owner. According to officials, the new plates will come with a guarantee that assures that, if they break or suffer damage within the guarantee period, they will have to be replaced by the dealer who fitted them.

But this will make the owners vulnerable to harassment by the dealers, who may raise any number of objections as the process involves hot-stamping of holograms to establish authenticity. There will surely be a role for the RTO for the replacements and these offices are not particularly known for straightforward dealings. Overall, there is a challenge of unknown quantity.