Anup Ojha, The Kathmandu Post, December 29, 2021
The Department of Transport Management has resumed printing ‘smart driving licence’ from Tuesday.
The department resumed the printing work in the presence of Minister of Physical Infrastructure and Transport Renu Kumari Yadav amid a function at the department’s office in Minbhawan, Kathmandu.
“I inspected the machine, now people need not to stay for hours in line to take a licence,” said Yadav addressing journalists present at the function.
“Now onwards, those who pass the trial exam will get a smart licence on the spot,” said Namaraj Ghimire, director general at the department.
New applicants who pass the exams will be provided a provisional license for a year, according to officials.
Spokesperson at the Department, Loknath Bhusal said after the one year provisional period is over the driver gets a smart licence for 10 years.
“But if a person commits traffic rules violations five times during the one year period, he/she won’t be getting a license,” said Bhusal.
The department has announced plans to print cards at its office in three shifts–morning, day and evening.
The newly unveiled machine at the department can print 450 cards per hour. The office plans to print 8,000 to 10,000 smart cards every day according to Director General Ghimire.
If the department truly resumes its task, this will give a huge respite to tens of thousands of applicants who have yet to get a new licence, and those who need to renew their old licences.
However, there is the question regarding the sustainability of the machine, as the department does not have the manpower to immediately repair the machine in case of a glitch or malfunction. There have been several instances when the department has halted licence distribution citing technical glitches.
Spokesperson Bhusal said the department has not printed smart cards since August last year. “The printed licence will be sent to 21 transport offices across the country. Firstly we will be distributing licences to 700,000 applicants who have passed the exams but have yet to get a licence,” said Bhusal.
From September 6 this year, the department had resumed the trial and written exams for driver’s licence in the Bagmati Province. The exams were stalled since April 29 when the Covid-19 prohibitory orders were imposed in Kathmandu and other districts. Officials struggled to deal with thousands of new applicants and a huge backlog that had built up due to the disruption.
Director Ghimire said the department had brought 1.4 million units of digital cards to its office in the third week of November and there will be no shortage of cards. “We had sent a few cards to France to check their quality and we recently received a positive report and have started printing today,” said Ghimire.
The smart driving licences are similar to ATM cards issued by banks. The license contains an electronic chip similar to a SIM card where the driver’s identity and vehicle registration number are stored. The data recorded on the smart driving licence is accessible to all transport offices across the country, the traffic police, Nepal Police and insurance agencies, among others.
The government had announced its plan to introduce smart licenses six years ago, in 2015, but still hasn’t been able to fully phase out the paper-based license cards.
“Until now we have already distributed smart licenses to two million people, but we could not meet our target due to some technical glitches and other challenges including the pandemic,” said Bhusal.
For the department, clearing the backlog has always remained a big challenge. There are still over 700,000 smart licences yet to be printed, officials said.
The department had tried different ways to clear the backlog.
On October 23, 2018, the department had awarded a contract to Malika Incorporated to print more than 500,000 backlog licences, but the firm was able to print just 360,000 cards during its contract period.
In July 2019, the department purchased its own printer to meet the demand for driving licences. Still, it has not been able to provide licenses on time.