GPS tracking may be mandatory in all Delhi auto-rickshaws soon | Latest News Delhi - Hindustan Times
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GPS tracking may be mandatory in all Delhi auto-rickshaws soon

ByAlok KN Mishra
Jan 30, 2024 10:53 PM IST

Auto-rickshaws in Delhi without functional GPS devices will soon be denied fitness certificates, preventing them from legally operating in the city. The move aims to enhance passenger safety and follows the use of GPS data to identify an auto-rickshaw used in a recent explosion. Auto drivers have expressed concern over the cost and burden of installing the devices. The requirement for GPS devices was temporarily paused during the pandemic but is now set to be reinstated.

Auto-rickshaws without functional GPS devices will soon not be issued fitness certificates, without which they cannot legally ply in Delhi, officials in the transport department said -- reviving the policy four years after it was paused due to the global pandemic.

GPS devices are installed in all of Delhi’s 90,000 autos but are functional in just about one-tenth of them. (HT Archive)
GPS devices are installed in all of Delhi’s 90,000 autos but are functional in just about one-tenth of them. (HT Archive)

“GPS (global positioning system) devices are installed in all of Delhi’s 90,000 autos, but are functional in just about one-tenth of them. We will soon make functional devices mandatory to ensure passenger safety,” said a Delhi transport department official who asked not to be named.

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When asked, transport minister Kailash Gahlot did not comment on the matter.

The move is likely to get some pushback from Delhi’s 90,000-odd auto drivers, many of whom said installing the devices will impose an “unnecessary compliance burden” and force them to make a recurring expense that will eat into their income.

Investigations after the blast at the Israel embassy in Delhi on December 26 last year underlined the importance of GPS (global positioning system) devices in autos, said police and state government officials, revealing that satellite data helped officers zero in on the auto-rickshaw used by the suspect around the time of the explosion.

The Delhi transport department on January 27 issued an order directing officials in its auto-rickshaw unit to test GPS devices during fitness certificate checks. Even as this prompted several auto drivers to re-operationalise the small chips installed alongside fare meter, many unions implored the department to reverse the order.

The order was retracted on January 29, 2024, after meetings with the unions, but transport department officials indicated that the order may be reissued soon with a more flexible compliance timeline.

Auto-rickshaws in Delhi are issued fitness certificates at a centre in Burari, located in the city’s northern fringes.

The trackers are built into the meter box, said state officials aware of the process. The core of the device is essentially a SIM card, which only relays satellite and location information and cannot be used for calls, texts or for mobile data. The SIM card pushes out location information whenever the meter is switched on, irrespective of whether the meter is running or not. To be sure, the device stops working when the meter is powered down.

Delhi Integrated Multi-Modal Transit System (DIMTS) Limited, which also operates the city’s cluster bus service, monitors the GPS devices at the Kashmere Gate data centre.

The SIM remains active for two years, after which it needs to be renewed at the Burari centre.

Auto-rickshaw permit licences in Delhi mandate that they all must have working GPS devices, in the absence of which permits are invalid. There is, however, no enforcement as things stand.

Auto-rickshaws have been required to be equipped with these trackers since 2011. In April 2020 due to the pandemic, however, it was no longer mandatory for fitness certificates.

“The exercise was discontinued during the pandemic to reduce compliance burden,” said one of the transport officials quoted above.

Auto-rickshaw unions called the new move “unnecessary”.

Delhi Auto Rickshaw Sangh’s general secretary Rajendra Soni said the transport department should not impose GPS devices on auto-rickshaws because the “three-wheelers are open vehicles”, and that the device “has no major impact on passengers safety”. “The move will put an unnecessary compliance burden on drivers. The GPS has also not helped find any lost auto so far, for instance,” said Soni.

Amit Bhatt, managing director of International Council on Clean Transportation, said, “An active and functional GPS makes public transport safer, especially autos and cabs, as it works like a strong deterrent and enforces discipline in people driving these vehicles. The GPS locations which are tracked by the transport department also help the police when it has to investigate a crime where the movement of auto rickshaws has been involved. There is, however, a need to use the GPS data for the purpose of planning, traffic rules enforcement, and checking the violation of rules to make the passenger experience better.”

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