FASTag details will now be captured each time a vehicle is registered, or is issued a fitness certificate, the Road Transport Ministry said on Sunday. The Ministry has written a letter to the National Informatics Centre to ensure that FASTag details are captured. The National Electronic Toll Collections, which handles FASTag payments, has been completely integrated with the national vehicle registration database, Vahan, the Ministry wrote in the letter, meaning that the Vahan system is now getting information on FASTags on the basis of a vehicle’s registration and identification number.
The Ministry said that an API for the same was launched in May this year. This comes after the Ministry, last month, scrapped a policy which allowed it to sell its massive vehicle registration database to public and private entities.
FASTags, originally introduced in 2014, are prepaid RFID tags which can be used to pay tolls on highways without stopping at the plaza, and the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways had mandated their use from December 15, 2019. The deadline to install FASTags was initially December 1, but it was postponed because several people hadn’t put up FASTags on their vehicles “due to various reasons,” the ministry had said in a statement last year.
Concerns around mandating FASTags: However, the civil society fears that the mandatory condition of fitting one’s vehicles is a perverse directive, and can have privacy implications. “The 2017 gazette notification making FASTag mandatory for registration of vehicles violates Puttaswamy judgement as there is no law (executive orders are not law) requiring such mandatory fixing of FASTag. The MoRTH asking vehicle owners to mandatorily buy a vehicle tracking and payments technology operated by a specific private monopoly [National Payments Corporation of India, which operates the FASTag platform] is deeply problematic when one thinks of not just privacy, but the value of non-personal data generated by FASTag,” Srikanth L., of Cashless Consumer told MediaNama.
In a 2018 representation to the Road Transport Ministry, Srikanth had also said that mandating FASTags brings about data centralisation, which can possibly threaten a state’s economic interests. “FASTag also enables centralisation of all toll traffic data throughout the country from payments. This aides the operators of the NETC/FASTag system to gather data on vehicular traffic in highway stretches, monitor traffic volumes & revenue of them. Even as the government is auctioning highways, availability of this data in centralised form the hands of a private company (NPCI) poses great risk to state’s economic interest,” he had written in his 2018 recommendation.