AS YOU TRAVEL along the lunar stretch that connects
highwayyou come across the first toll booth at a
place called Vashi. In August, the people who levy toll
on this road, decided to introduce smart cards to
make things easier.
Until July, vehicle owners would stick an ugly, flu-
orescent sticker on their car's windscreen. It was
their monthly toll pass.
So when smart cards were introduced in August,
there was some jubilation. The toll contractors
installed spanking new PCs, printers, and a smart
card system, thereby ending the Ugly Sticker regime.
Or so the commuters thought.
Earlier, the man who handed out the sticker
noted your vehicle registration number in a log book,
returned the change, and then wrote the registration
number on the sticker. This routine took not more
than 45 to 60 seconds.
You'd think the smart card would make it easier.
But here is what happens: The same man now notes
the vehicle registration number in his log book, and
later onto the computer, extracts a smart card from
his filing cabinet, puts a sticker on it, and writes the
vehicle registration number on the sticker. He then
goes back to the PC, and prints out a receipt. Once
this is done, he returns the change and hands you
the smart card. Time taken: five minutes. Result:
Delayed service, long queues, and more than
5,000 agonised commuters.
One hundred marks for transparency, zero
After spending lakhs on thousands of smart
cards (priced at Rs 70 each, a cost passed on to com-
muters), Pentium 4 PCs, four dot matrix printers,
and a smart card authenticator, Mumbai's outbound
commuters are still stuck with a sticker (every
month one more sticker will be stuck to the previous
one), and now they even have to remember to carry
the smart card every day, which, for all practical pur-
poses, is a dog tag, because the authorities have not
installed a card reader at the toll booth.
The Vashi toll booth is a perfect example of how
technology is used where none is requiredor even if