The officer at the RTO asked me to cancel my other application to get a new Indian DL based on my Swedish DL.
Earlier this year, my dad reminded me that my Indian driver’s license was on the verge of expiring. This was a license issued exactly twenty years ago, when I’d just turned 18, and it predated the chip and digital DL era. Searching online showed that there was now a spanking new centralized website designed by my erstwhile colleagues at CDAC, and it looked promising, till I waded in. The website helpfully mentioned that it supported multiple formats of DL numbers, and when I typed in my DL number, it told me that it had not been digitized, and it politely asked me if I’d like to be redirected to the backlog DL updation page. When I allowed it to take me there, the new page told me that the Karnataka state wasn’t in the business of allowing backlog updation, so could I please take myself to their most helpful RTO near me? Aargh!
Where there’s a will, there’s a short-cut
After my first disappointment with the online renewal, I told my dad that my online efforts had not borne fruit. He spoke to a friend who knew a friend, who checked for me, and told me that my case was too complicated; the DL was a backlog case, and I wanted a change of address (the address on the old DL was a rented apartment we’d lived in ages ago), a change of surname (I’d gotten my last name changed vide affidavit), and if these weren’t enough, my parents had misplaced/lost the original DL card that I’d given to them for safe-keeping! Since I’d only be in India for a couple of weeks, his advice was to forget all about the DL and use Uber/Ola during my visit, and contact him for a fresh DL the next time I was in India for longer than a month! I was discouraged, but not ready to let go of my hopes just yet. Was there any way out? Could I perhaps use my Swedish driver’s license as a base, to get a new license? Hmm. Some searching showed me that this was probably going to work!
Getting an Indian DL on the basis of holding a foreign DL
There’s a possibility to obtain a brand new Indian DL, if you have an international driver’s license, and don’t have an existing Indian license, but my now-expired DL was good as non-existent, right? It was not even digitized! Later on, I realized that this was a bad idea, but not just then. I set about filling out my foreign DL particulars, address details (I thankfully had a voter’s id card with the correct Indian address), and I selected both LMV and Motorcycle With Gear (MCWG), which I must admit was a bit ambitious. While the LMV class was straightforward, my Swedish DL only had an AM class approval for two-wheelers, which is a sub 50 cc moped, but I thought I’d try and see.
I’d successfully filled everything online before I even entered India, except for the payment, as the payment gateway implementation was buggy as hell and broke down repeatedly. In India, I got to the HSR Layout RTO in Bengaluru, and realized I’d made my first mistake; I’d chosen the wrong RTO in my application form. I’d now have to cancel the old application and reapply everything, making sure I chose the right RTO. Since I’d done it already once, I submitted everything again and made sure to choose the correct RTO this time around, and made a trip to the RTO, Bengaluru South (Jayanagar).
At the RTO, the first thing I did was to pay the fees (big mistake) and was then directed to the office of the ARTO, Mr. Suresh, who perused my documents and mentioned that I had to redo my application, as I was only eligible for the LMV class. So there it was, straight from the horse’s mouth; my gamble hadn’t paid off. I’d thought that I’d manage to get the motorcycle license to piggyback on top of the LMV license, but no dice.
The thing is, the LMV license would have been the icing on the cake, but my basic requirement was a two-wheeler license, as I don’t own a car in India, and while on my visits, not having a two-wheeler license would mean that I’d be crippled, or forced to ride illegally, which I didn’t want to do. Having only the LMV license would hardly help me, so I told Mr. Suresh sheepishly, that I held a now expired license for a geared two-wheeler and was there no way of getting the MWCG class added.
At that point, Mr. Suresh told me without further ado that it was illegal to apply for a second license when I held one already, even if it was expired. When I asked him what my options were, I was told that backlog cases had to be pushed manually into the centralized system by the RTO that originally issued the DL, and then, I could proceed further from there. He told me that I’d have to cancel my other application for the DL based on the foreign DL immediately, which I did. And the fees that I’d already paid? No chance of a refund. Mr. Suresh then mentioned to me never to pay any fees related to RTOs ever, unless I got the go-ahead from the officer in charge of the case. Yes sir, duly noted, lesson learned the hard way!
Operation revive expired DL
The issuing RTO for my original DL was Indiranagar, and the RTO had since then shifted even further away, and was now in Kasturinagar, and given Bengaluru traffic, it was at least an hour away from my residence. I was directed to a counter for the backlog entries. One wonders why all records weren’t simply digitized en-masse, instead of doing the backlog entries on-demand.
Anyway, the person at the counter noted my original DL’s number and said it would take a week for the data to be found and digitized, and that I’d get the new DL number, if I made a second trip. He also noted that I’d need to file an FIR for the lost DL and that I’d need the FIR number to proceed further with the renewal process, but that I’d need the new DL number before I could proceed with the FIR, so there was nothing for me to do now, but to wait out a week.
Second trip to Kasturinagar RTO
A week elapsed, and I made my way to the RTO again. I was asked to wait awhile this time, but after a bit of a wait, I got called, and I received my new DL number, and a printout from the system, showing that the data had now been pushed to the central database! I could now proceed further!
It turns out that the FIR system has been revamped quite a bit now; police stations no longer file out FIRs for lost documents and items. It’s an online process called E-lost which one can do on our own, but one needs to have an Aadhaar for that, something I didn’t have, and for personal reasons never would want to have. The trip to the police station was not entirely wasted, as they were able to guide me to a cyber cafe nearby that could file the E-lost application for me
When one specifies that a DL has been lost, it automatically contacts the centralized RTO system to match the DL number. When the old DL number was entered, the system simply spat out an ‘Incorrect record number’ error, but when the new number was entered, it accepted it without any fuss. Ah, the beauty of it, when technology works as it is intended to do so! I needed to receive an OTP on an Indian sim which I thankfully had, and within minutes, I’d paid the cyber cafe owner for his services, and I had both an email from the E-lost system as well as a printout of the report, with the complaint number and everything that I’d need for my license renewal application.
Second trip to Jayanagar RTO (Bengaluru South)
Armed with the newly pushed DL number and the E-lost copy, I returned to Jayanagar RTO but was told that the ARTO was away on a visit to another RTO, and that he was the only person who could ratify all of my documents and approve the application, and he’d be back only the next day. I spoke to another person at one of the counters and requested them to perform a once-over for my documents, just in case she spotted anything amiss. She said everything was in order, and that I needed to come back the next day.
Third time’s the charm?
I went back to the Jayanagar RTO the next day. I requested the following DL services and uploaded the relevant documents for the same.
- Renewal of DL: no documents
- Name change: affidavit for a name change, newspaper ad for a name change, passport copy with an updated name.
- Address change: Voter id with correct Indian address.
When I met the ARTO, he perused through my case and mentioned that I should add the following services, and upload the additional documents where needed.
- Issue of duplicate DL: E-lost complaint report scan.
- Updation of biometrics.
Once I’d uploaded the E-lost complaint report pdf, the system showed that all my documents were in order. Mr. Suresh then gave me the go-ahead to pay the fees and proceed with the biometrics capture, which only took a few minutes. When I met him again, he said the process was now complete from my side, and that he’d approve my case and that I’d have my DL soon. I told him that though I had to make a few trips to the RTOs, I was extremely impressed by the changes in the way the RTO now functioned.
I got a message from the RTO system the same day, that my case had been approved and I had my printed DL in my hands within two weeks. It sucks that digitization of old DLs has to be done on an individual basis, and that it requires multiple visits to the RTO, but the rest of the system has been streamlined beyond belief.
Touts are still doing brisk business, but they are now doing the work of data entry operators for the most part, catering to those who cannot fill online forms on their own, but the system seems very much cleaner now.
Earlier, people who didn’t want to offer a bribe were condemned to run from pillar to post in a merry-go-round fashion, but most things are now doable on a laptop or in a pinch, even on a phone! The interlinking of services/databases seems to have been done exceptionally well, with the FIR system and the RTO system dovetailing together well.
My new DL is valid for a good ten years. I asked ARTO Suresh if I could add my LMV class to my new renewed DL, based on my foreign DL, but he said it wasn’t possible. I’d have to apply for a learner’s permit, hold it for a minimum of 30 days and take a driving test if I wanted to get the additional bits on my DL, or drive a four-wheeler in India with an IDP issued on my Swedish DL, and it’s the latter that I think I’ll have to be satisfied with, should I need to rent a car and drive while on an India visit in the future.
Here’s what BHPian bordeaux had to say about the matter:
If you decided not to pay a bribe, it’s entirely possible for you to get your work done now which wasn’t possible earlier. Have done several RTO things here in Hyderabad and it’s impressive that a government system not only works but is also quite efficient.
I do like the fact that they didn’t digitise all data. So many people would have died, moved abroad or moved to other states. Why bother? Also, it distributes work over a longer period of time leaving fewer chances of error. Getting a new DL is pretty easy these days in terms of the process involved. So, most people won’t even bother digitising their records and will just get a new one instead.
Here’s what BHPian MSAneesh had to say about the matter:
What is ‘wrong RTO’ ? Is it based on the jurisdiction of RTO for the current residential address? Was it not possible for you to renew at Jayanagar/Kasturinagar RTO?
I also need to get my license digitized by submitting a backlog entry request.
Here’s what BHPian RaviKBobba had to say about the matter:
This is close to my current situation. My current DL was also taken around 20 years ago & about to expire by May 2023.
Till a few months back, I was able to find my DL details on the Parivahan site & add it as virtual DL in mParivahan as well. But, now is not the case. I am redirected to the backlog DL of Andhra Pradesh & it says “Backlog is not allowed”.
Strange people – I don’t understand why they don’t do their end of the job. I neither live in that state nor have any contacts to get that digitized.
Any suggestions, please?