Odishatv Bureau

Bhubaneswar: If the Deogarh mishap had anything to do with the fact that the ill-fated bus was running without a valid fitness certificate, then it’s just the tip of the iceberg. An investigation by Odisha Television to scratch the surface and understand the state of affairs of road transport in Odisha has revealed that there are numerous spanking new vehicles that exist only on paper. These vehicles have everything - a legitimate owner, fitness certificate, insurance and also a Registration Certificate (RC) book - but have never been on the roads or seen by anyone . At the other end of the laundry list of irregularities within the State transport department, one could find dilapidated vehicles trundling on the roads with no papers whatsoever.

The ill-fated bus, which fell into a 300-ft gorge off the Gailo ghat in Deogarh district on Sunday evening killing 27 and injuring 11 persons, was running without a valid fitness certificate. There are thousands of such ‘unfit’ vehicles plying on Odisha’s roads. While the Transport department doesn’t have the resources to check these vehicles, it has been resourceful enough to create ghost vehicles on paper. There are thousands of valid registrations, but there are no physical vehicles.

Investigations by OTV reveal that Chandikhole and Keonjhar Regional Transport Offices (RTOs) have been in the thick of such irregularities. Most of such sham registrations have been done for tankers.

Odisha Television contacted one such person in whose name a vehicle has been registered. His response -“I have no clue. I don’t even know what they are doing at the RTO. When I came to know that this is a fake vehicle, I stayed away from it.”

While trying to find out the reasons behind the prevalence of such ghost vehicles, OTV stumbled on the startling revelation that such vehicles are being created out of thin air to perpetrate a massive fraud with the singular objective of having a lion's share of the lucrative oil transport business.

Since the oil companies are opting only for new model vehicles, miscreants are creating and using these sham registration details to win tenders. In reality, they never really buy new vehicles and continue to use their old vehicles after winning the transport contract.

It is even more startling that these ghost vehicles are even able to obtain licenses for transporting explosives by duping the Weights and Measures department.

The scale at which such things are being done raises serious doubts on the role of the Transport department in this whole process. But when confronted with facts about this massive fraud, the mandarins of the department come out with their customary, well-rehearsed response.

“If we find that registrations are being done without the vehicle, then we will launch an inquiry. If investigations reveal that concerned officers are responsible, then definitely action will be taken as per law,” said Transport Commissioner Chandrasekhar Kumar.