- The government has said that it is planning to move to a GPS-based toll collection method.
- Transport minister Nitin Gadkari says that GPS-based toll collection is in the works.
- The system will effectively allow GPS tracking of all cars in real-time in India.
You can call in real-time surveillance of all cars on Indian roads or you can say that it is just a way to make toll collection easier. But if the government goes ahead with its plans to remove physical toll booths and introduce a GPS-based toll collection system, it will allow government officials to monitor all cars in India in real-time.
The trigger for the move is likely to be removal of physical toll booths, which the government seems to be pitching as the next step after making FASTags mandatory from February 15, 2021.
The government is likely to do away with all physical toll booths within a year, making GPS-based FASTags compulsory for all vehicles. Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari has said that the new vehicles will have FasTags fitted in them, while the government has said it will give free FASTags for old vehicles.
"I want to assure the House that within one year all physical toll booths in the country will be removed. It means that toll collection will happen via GPS. The money will be collected based on GPS imaging (on vehicles)," Gadkari on Thursday during the Question Hour in Lok Sabha said.
What the minister left unsaid is that once the toll collection moves to GPS-based tracking it will also be mandatory to have the approved GPS module fitted in the car and that the location data from this GPS module will have to be shared with toll-collection authorities, essentially the government, for the system to function.
In other words, the government will have the capability to monitor a car on any Indian road in real-time.
Gadkari said that there are people who get away without paying the toll that amounts to cases of theft. He said that there are cases of toll theft and GST evasion when FASTags are not fitted in vehicles. With the introduction of a GPS-tracker in every four-wheeler, the government can keep track of the defaulters.
"It looks like they don't want to leave a record. Now, I have called a police inquiry (on people not using FASTags)." He further noted that 93 per cent of the current vehicles pay toll using FASTag. However, some people have not adopted the FASTag system which was introduced in 2016, despite having to pay a double toll.
Gadkari elaborated on the plans of GPS-based toll in reply to a question from a BSP MP Danish Ali who noted that toll booths in Ganamukteshwar in Hapur district were at 40-km intervals while the norm for toll booth intervals on national highways is 60-km. "I know in some places there are too many toll booths. It's wrong and unfair. We have decided to get rid of them," Gadkari said.
While many cars already have GPS modules fitted in them, these modules are currently used for accessing digital maps and charting a route. Most drivers also carry a smartphone with them, which too is effectively a good GPS-tracking tool. However, data collected by these modules or the phone is not shared with the government on a real-time basis, even though in some cases the government agencies may request phone companies or GPS service providers access to data in case of a valid law-enforcement requirement.
The GPS-based toll collection, the way it looks at the moment, will be somewhat different in the way that it will allow the government to collect GPS data of a vehicle in real-time and that is bound to lead to surveillance and privacy fears.