Yesterday I went to the RTO. I wish didn't have to have gone there. But, I had lost the RC book for my car and it warranted a trip to the government office to apply for a duplicate. I never want to go back there again. There were a hundred people milling around. Most of them looked like touts, with several files in the their hands, and talking 'importantly' on the phone (probably to their contact in the RTO or their client). Those who looked half decent trooped obediently behind their agent from room to room, getting their work done. I too, had gone with an 'agent'. He asked me to wait while he contacted his 'contact' who was coming down with my 'file'. I had no idea what the file contained. Perhaps the copy of the original I had given my agent and a form that I had never seen, that had been filled out for me. Just sitting there waiting, watching the madness around me, made me think.
More than 15 yrs ago when I learnt how to drive, my driving school took additional fees to get me a license - they had two plans - classes and classes with licence. Yes, I had to write the written exam but they told me if I didn't know which answer to circle in the MCQs, I should just stick to answer 'a'. I was also told to tell them I had gone for a round in my car with an official, if they asked me. I neither had a car waiting on the road, nor went for a round. I hardly new how to do parallel parking, let alone drive in Delhi's manic traffic. Yet, I was told that I had passed the test and got my license. Though I only actually used it, many many many lessons and 15 years later!
Is it any surprise that there are so many road accidents in our country or the fact that most of traffic jams are caused due to road illiterate (and often literate) people driving in the wrong lane, or wrong side of the road, When there are road signs, people don't know what they stand for. I'm sure, most times, even the cops don't know! Slow, heavy vehicles drive in both lanes, holding up all the cars behind them. Buses drive in which ever lane they feel like, and stop in the middle of the road to pick up passengers. Bikes swerve around other bigger vehicles, zigzagging through traffic, a nervous car driver's nightmare. Cars do not want to let anyone go, there is no 'right of way' concept. And everyone wants to go at the same time, resulting in - no one being able to get through. It's chaotic, maddening and absolute mayhem.
But, I wrote this post, not to complain about the traffic jams, but the RTO and the bureaucracy. There seemed to be more middle men there than actual applicants. It took me just an hour to get the highest official's signature, but then, I had an agent with a 'good contact'. I wonder how the others (those who don't use an agent or can't afford one) manage. I wonder how much money is passed under the many many tables; how many bribes are passed around; how much each one takes as 'his cut'. I feel guilty for being part of the system. But I don't know how to not be. Maybe I am like as ostrich who buries his head in the sand, but I hope I never have to visit a government office again.