Ministry of Road Transport and Highways recently issued a notification to address a keyword issue. You had to have a Fastag to drive through the Fastag lanes. Even if it was damaged, you could, technically, fight your way through with the official word on your side. The MoRTH addressed this with GSR 298E. The clause now says that the tag should also be functional and valid.
Entry for non-tag users in Fastag lanes results in double toll as a fine.
Click here to read the official circular.
Here’s the excerpt from the amendment:
The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has issued notification GSR 298 E, dated 15th May 2020 for amendment in the National Highways Fee (Determination of Rates and Collection) Rules, 2008 which provide that if a vehicle which is not fitted with FASTag or the vehicle is without a valid or functional FASTag, enters into “FASTag lane” of the Fee plazas, then they shall pay a fee equivalent to two times of the fee applicable to that category of vehicles.
Before this amendment, the user of vehicle was to pay twice on the fee plaza only if the vehicle didn’t carry the FASTag and entered in dedicated FASTag lane.
Even if you have a functional tag and the toll plaza’s hardware is the issue, it’s going to be difficult to prove that your tag is fine. Incorrect installation and non-maintenance could also lead to the malfunctioning of the RFID reader.
A rushed approach towards implementing the Fastag had its fair share of hurdles and caused traffic jams at several booths. That’s the exact opposite of what we were promised. Lots of road users have also had to pay cash at the booth only to find out later that the toll was also deducted from their account. Instead of educating the road users and delivering the promised results, the MoRTH bullied road users into getting a tag by closing all but one lane at toll plazas for non-tag users. Ideally, it should work as any startup does. Offer enough value to the end-users that they’re happy to pay for your product or service. This could be done by gradually increasing the number of Fastag-exclusive lanes at all toll booths.
At the Kherki-Daula toll (NH8 Gurugram), for instance, there were 2 Fastag-exclusive lanes on each side. This is long before the Fastag became mandatory. The order to penalize non-tag users for using the tag lane has been around for a few years. Yet, it was never implemented at this plaza. Eventually, thousands of drivers found that there was no value in having a tag. Since the number of cash transactions was still quite high in these lanes, the authorities decided to drop the number of Fastag-exclusive lanes to 1 on each side. Poor enforcement of rules at the plaza was proving that the Fastag wasn’t offering enough value to the drivers to encourage adoption.
All of a sudden, Fastag became mandatory, which led to huge traffic jams at the this Kherki Daula plaza. It got so much worse, that taking a longer alternate route became not only cheaper but faster for people. Talk about falling in your own pit.
The worst case is that everyone gets stuck in traffic because the road users aren’t ready to pay twice the tax. As a best case, the Fastag was speeding up the journey for its users by slowing down non-tag users. As there’s only 1 lane for non-tag users, it creates a severe bottleneck even at booths, which can use other lanes could ease the flow without affecting tag users.
This is a huge source of revenue for MoRTH as car owners have to buy a tag and maintain some balance. Those who have to rarely travel on the highways may also cave-in to avoid the pain of getting stuck in the only cash lane. Fastag was supposed to be faster for tag users. Not necessarily at the cost of slowing down non-tag users.
Risk To Privacy Though Location Tracking
Every time you go through a toll booth, the transaction record notes your location. Granted that this could potentially help you locate your lost vehicle. But, in the wrong hands, it’s a record of your routine, which can easily predict your location in future by drawing patterns. Machine Learning algorithms are already capable of doing this. Whether you’re comfortable sharing your location with the government officials depends on how much you trust them to safeguard it. History is not on their side. Aadhaar data breach and the recent revelation of security risks in the Arogya Setu app should be proof enough.
No Official MoRTH Order Mandating Fastag
I dug deeper and tried to find the actual order mandating Fastag. I’ve scoured through MoRTH’s and NHAI’s portal and Googled the hell out of Google and the closest thing I could find was a press release on PIB claiming that the MoRTH has “decided to declare” all lanes as Fastag-exclusive lanes. But, there’s a big difference between “deciding” to declare and “declaring”. “My friend has decided to buy a car” and “My friend has bought a car” have different meanings.
For clarifications, I’ve personally written to the Nodal Officer of the Indian Highways Management Company and NHAI officials but never received a response. Since Paytm and other banks were also marketing and selling Fastag, I tried to reach out to Paytm and HDFC. Their representatives claimed to acknowledge that Fastag is mandatory but couldn’t show me a copy of the MoRTH notification. The reps tried their best to end the conversation as soon as I asked for their permission to quote them.
Perhaps I’m missing something. If you happen to come across such a MoRTH order/notification mandating Fastag at all national highway toll plazas, then kindly consider providing us with the link for the same in our comment section.
No Toll If ETC Machine Malfunctioning
Another circular from 2018 allows you to drive through a Fastag lane for free if you have a valid, functional tag with adequate balance but the electronic toll collection machine can’t read your tag. We strongly urge you to keep a hard copy of this order with you to minimize the chances of getting in an argument with the toll booth operator – should you end up in such a situation.
Click here to read/download a copy of this MoRTH circular