Travelling from Mumbai to Pune should have become easier. After all, it has been a month since FASTag has been made mandatory, and the electronic system was meant to speed commuters through toll nakas. The halting queues should have shortened. Instead, the wait continues. In a mean irony, drivers are being held up at the toll plazas by the technology itself, which they now call SLOWtag.
FASTag is a radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology introduced by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) in October 2017. Ideally the RFID reader at the booth reads the chip attached to the vehicle and automatically deducts the amount from the payments account linked to the chip.
Sounds perfect, doesn’t it? But the reality isn’t. In some cases, the chip reader fails. If it is the failure of the infrastructure, rules state that the driver should be let off. However, drivers complain of being charged double the toll fee, which is the fine mandated for when they don’t have the FASTag chip. They are being penalised for no fault of theirs. Toll-booth operators aren’t happy with the technology too, since they could lose their jobs to this automated alternative.
A Moneylife report shared the data given by MoRTH, for the January 25-31 week this year. According to the report, MoRTH’s toll free number, 1033, received 8,324 complaints about FASTag and toll plazas. Out of this, 2,459 were about a vehicle not being able to pass through a toll plaza during an emergency. In non-emergency situations, 16% or 1,349 complaints were about double payments, which is a driver paying by cash and then seeing a deduction from his/her FASTag account; 50% of these complaints remained unresolved. Also, there were 996 complaints on FASTag deduction without consent or travel, and only about 30% of these were closed.
As India inches towards a cashless economy, we need to make sure that poorly thought out or implemented solutions do not make its citizens ‘cashless’.