Pradeep Pattanayak

After the state government made the installation of Vehicle Location Tracking Device (VLTD) and Panic Button mandatory for new and old vehicles from October 1 and December 31 respectively, it has started courting controversy. 

Lakhs of money are allegedly being asked from the VLTD manufacturers as bribes to empanel them. And this has been alleged by none other than the VLTD Manufacturers’ Association-Smart Mobility Association itself. The Smart Mobility Association has brought the attention of the Transport Minister, the concerned Secretary, the Transport Commissioner and the Director of Vigilance to the massive corruption by writing letters to them. 

In its letter, the association has alleged that the State Transport Authority and a few manufacturers are involved in the corruption. 

As per the allegation, if a supplier of VLTD device applies for empanelment, the STA-appointed organisation BSNL-IDEMIA rejects the application on the ground of device testing. Later, the supplier is contacted through different Whatsapp numbers and asked to cough up a bribe of Rs 15 to 20 lakhs to be empanelled. 

The Smart Mobility Association wanted to know how the manufacturing companies and suppliers that have been selected in the other 15 states failed in testing in Odisha. 

“The same devices have been passed the tests in 15 other states. And, it has been passed by different departments like FCI and Mines. Here, an Odisha govt official sees the device and says it won’t work. Later, a phone call is received wherein the caller says give this much money or else your company will be rejected,” alleged Rajan Chadha, Vice President, Smart Mobility Association. 

“You want to assign the job to two to three companies. This way, the cost of the product will go up by three times,” he added. 
According to a source, in other states, the expenditure of installation of these devices is something between Rs 7,000 and Rs 8,000. But in Odisha, it is feared that the a vehicle owner may have to spend Rs 15,000 for the same device. 

Meanwhile, after the allegation of corruption surfaced, resentment is brewing among the transport experts and vehicle owners. 

“As per our knowledge, for the installation of a VLTD device, one has to spend Rs 15,000. But in neighbouring West Bengal, the total cost of installation ranges between Rs 6000 and 7,000. Here in Odisha, other manufacturing companies should be included so that there would be a competition and the customers would get the device at a comparatively lower price,” alleged Kishore Nayak, a vehicle owner. 

Expressing his concern, transport expert, Subrat Nanda said, “As two to three companies have been assigned the job, it would be a difficult task as the devices will be installed in both old and new vehicles. So the government should rope in more companies.”

When contacted, the STA authorities refused to say anything on camera but denied the allegation of irregularities.

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