Street smarts

Published: July 14, 2015 - 15:27 Updated: July 14, 2015 - 15:29

For Alok Singh, it is possible to considerably curb crimes on streets with little more than a smart card. A mandatory smart card for all drivers is expected to discourage them from misbehaving and will make them think twice before abusing passengers in any way, claims Alok, a Lucknow-based graduate of Bangalore’s Indian Institute of Science.

The card designed by Alok is smart in that it stores driver information, including driving license, present and permanent address, mobile phone number, identity card, photo and police records, if any.

Just a swipe of the card results in a tumble of detailed information about a driver, very useful to city administrators, police, roadways and transport officials. Drivers today are mostly hired by showing a driving license. Not much more is known about them. The result is an increase in cases of nonchalant child molestation, kidnapping and road accidents.

Alok makes it possible even for ordinary citizens to access detailed information about who drives which vehicle, on the website of a campaign called Mission Bharosa. Even while hiring a driver, citizens can check details online. The idea is not to hire a driver who does not carry a smart card.

Only after the Mission Bharosa portal has displayed a verified status of a driver is the person eligible for a job. In the face of a complaint, all citizen has to do is to forward the driver’s smart card number to the police. At present, a vehicle’s number is registered with the police, which only helps trace the owner, not the driver.

The idea of designing such a smart card came to Alok after he discovered that the driver who ferried his son and other children to school every day was a drug addict. Furious, Alok also sat down to wonder what to do about it.

He was already aware of grave incidents of violence on roads, particularly against women and children. It is no secret that there is deep distrust between most parents and the city and school administrations regarding the safety and security of young students. That thought led Alok to design a concept called Mission Bharosa, to which the smart card is central.

“After horrific incidents of violence, like Nirbhaya in Delhi, and realising that most parents here do not trust the drivers who ferry their children to school every day, I got thinking,” Alok told Hardnews.

The technology entrepreneur and social activist, who has enjoyed various technical and product management positions in major chip companies, including Broadcom Corporation and Analogue Devices, is happy to see the Kanpur city administration impressed enough with his idea to put Mission Bharosa into practice.

Today, Dr. Roshan Jacob, Kanpur District Magistrate, wants every driver of all school buses and auto rickshaws hired by schools in the city to carry a smart card. The information stored in a smart card is most useful to the Roadways and Transport officials, as well as to the police.

The process to issue smart cards to school drivers is in full swing in Kanpur, as schools re-open after the summer break. The regional transport office has already asked all schools to provide detailed information for their drivers. To be hired as a driver, applicants have to first fill a form on the city administration website and deposit a hard copy to the permit department of the Transport Office.

This is only the beginning of a rigorous verification process that is carried out by police and transport officials before the district administration issues a smart card to a driver. And it is only drivers with a smart card who will eventually be allowed to transport students and teachers.

All schools also have to submit detailed information about drivers already hired, who will go through the same verification process. When a school changes a driver, it can do so only after alerting the nearest police station.

Very soon, the drivers of private vehicles hired by schools will also be asked to provide similar identification details before starting work.

Eventually, tempo and auto rickshaw drivers responsible for students are expected to make it to the master list as well. How easy it will be to catch a thief, I mean a driver!  


This story is from print issue of HardNews