Number Games

While the proposed introduction of High Security Registration Plate System for vehicles will check car thefts to a large extent, the move threatens to render scores of Number plate makers jobless. A report by Shams Irfan.

While the state government has sped up the process of introducing High Security Registration Plate (HSRP) system for motor vehicles in Jammu and Kashmir, locals already involved with the number plate making business see it as a threat to their livelihood.  “We have invested our life savings into setting up these units. How can government strip us off our livelihood,” said Ejaz Ahmad, one of the car decorators owning a shop in Maisuma.

The State Transport Department has hired a company called Real Mazon India Limited for manufacturing and installation of these HSRPs in Jammu and Kashmir. The company will provide HSRPs for more than 8 lakh vehicles plying on the state roads in accordance with the norms set by Supreme Court. The company has to ensure that every new vehicle that comes out on the road will have new HSRP installed.

On the other hand, the All Jammu and Kashmir Number Plate Makers Association (AJKNPMA) recently took to streets protesting against state government’s decision to hire a non local company for manufacturing the plates. The Association blames the government of neglecting them as once HSRPs becomes a reality in J&K the existing local number plate makers will go out of the work automatically. “What are we supposed to do for a living when government has already appointed an outsider to do our job,” asks Raja Fida Hussain, a registration number plate maker from main city Srinagar.

Most of the people associated with number plate making business in J&K are young and educated who have set up these small units with financial help from various banks. “After I failed to get a decent job, I took a loan from a bank and set up my own number plate making unit. At least I was able to provide for my family,” said Bilal Ahmad, a graduate in Economics, who owns a small shop in Maisuma. “But government is hell bent on snatching our livelihood,” he adds sadly.

The Association blamed government for being insensitive to its demands. “All we want is that government should engage existing number plate makers for implementing HSRPs in J&K,” said a member of the Association.

However Minister for Transport, Qamar Ali Akhoon in a television interview is reported to have said that these people should take care of their livelihood issues themselves. The president of the association reacted to this thus, “If they don’t care about us then we are left with no other option but to come on to the streets,”

Akhoon contended that the HSRPs would help in ensuring security of vehicles in the state and obviate car thefts. HSRPs will help in tracking down stolen vehicles as it features a 7 digit unique laser code, a self-destructive windshield sticker and a non-removable snap lock.

Also, once these number plates become mandatory, use of unnecessary wordings, fancy fonts, different sizes of number plates affecting visibility, would not be allowed.

The president of the association is however unimpressed as he blames the state transport department of allotting contract to Real Mazon in a non-transparent manner.

In January, 2012 State Transport Department had signed an agreement with Promuk Holffman Private Limited for the implementation of the HSRPs in Jammu and Kashmir. But in May, the department suddenly cancelled the contract alleging that the said company failed to implement the scheme within the agreed time frame. The same day Transport department allotted the contract to M/s Real Mazon India Limited. Interestingly, Real Mazon has already been blacklisted in Goa and Uttar Pradesh on the grounds of an adverse report against its owner Nitin Shah.

“We don’t understand these power corridor games. All we are concerned about is our livelihood which is being threatened because of the contract being awarded to outsiders and that too in a hush-hush manner,” said Shafat Ahmed, a member of the Association.

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