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Manipur Transport Department Initiates Process For Implementation Of Integrated Vehicle Tracking Platform

While the govt says the move is to ensure road safety and assist enforcement services, experts in the past have pointed out privacy concerns and also questioned the necessity for such tracking.

The Manipur government’s Transport Department has issued a tender for the implementation of a Vehicle Tracking Platform, which will enable continuous monitoring of public service vehicles to ensure road safety and assist enforcement services. The platform will serve as an interface for various other government departments including the State Emergency Response Support System, the Transport Department or Regional Transport Offices (RTOs), Ministry of Road, Transport and Highways (MoRTH), and law enforcement agencies among others to oversee road safety operations.

The State government is undertaking the project in accordance with a 2018 notification issued under the Central Motor Vehicle Rules, 1989 by the MoRTH. The notification mandated the installation of a vehicle location tracking device or VLTD and emergency buttons in public service vehicles.

According to the tender, reviewed by MediaNama, among other operations, the implementing agency will be mainly responsible for:

  • Development, deployment and integration of a vehicle tracking platform for monitoring vehicles covered under the system.
  • Installation, integration and commission of the Monitoring Centre infrastructure.
  • Development, deployment, and integration of mobile apps for various users.
  • Installation, integration and commission of Geographic Information System (GIS) Map for vehicle tracking platform.
  • Hosting the system on the National Informatics Centre (NIC) Cloud for the first two years after the system goes live.
  • Hosting the system on NIC Cloud/ State Data Centre/ MeiTY empanelled Cloud for the period after the first two years.
  • Integration with various transport-related systems such as VAHAN, Permit and Enforcement systems.
  • Integration with the police Emergency Response Support System (ERSS) to provide emergency alerts captured by the system.
  • Integration with the iRAD system (a road accident database) to share data with the system from different perspectives such as investigation, road engineering, vehicle condition, etc.

Why it matters:

In the last couple of years, the government’s approach towards road safety has mainly focused on real-time tracking of vehicles. While this may prove to be useful in tackling cases involving rash driving or traffic rules violations, or even for supporting law enforcement agencies investigating a crime, people’s privacy rights are at stake as the project involves gathering granular data associated with their movement.

Last year when the NIC first introduced the idea of fitting GPS-enabled VLTDs on vehicles, experts questioned the necessity of the move. Cybersecurity researcher and Delhi High Court lawyer Divyam Nandrajog noted that it would be a resource-heavy task, as each public vehicle in the country would need to be fitted with trackers and the government would have to set up towers to follow the tracked vehicles in real-time. This would also consume a significant section of a metro city’s internet bandwidth.

In 2020, the Transport Ministry had directed that the details of FASTags, which are used to pay tolls on highways without stopping at the plaza, will also be captured at the time of registration of a vehicle, or whenever a vehicle is issued a fitness certificate. The National Electronic Toll Collections, which handles FASTag payments is also integrated with the VAHAN system. Technology expert Srikanth L pointed out that the mandate to install a vehicle tracking device raises concerns related to privacy and the potential misuse of vehicular data by third-party actors.

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“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 remarked.

Enabling data sharing between government departments and the monitoring platform

1. Integration with VAHAN: The department intends to integrate the monitoring centre application for tracking vehicles with the VAHAN, an Android application that facilitates RTO-based services such as vehicle registration, permit issuance, taxation and fitness checks to the user. VAHAN will be used to activate VLTD devices fitted in the vehicles and check the authenticity of such devices.

The VAHAN database will provide information regarding vehicle registration, status of the VLTD fitted on the vehicles, details of the national permit issued, insurance-related info of the vehicle etc.

2. Integration with ERSS:

As per the tender, the monitoring centre will be integrated with the police emergency response support systems to provide emergency alerts as and when captured by the system. The system will be able to extract data in the specified formats for the police emergency response systems. In cases where an emergency button is activated, the location tracking device will be able to send data directly to the emergency response system of the State Transport Department; the VLTD will continue to send alerts to ERSS every 5 seconds. Additionally, the monitoring centre will have emergency events publishing capabilities to which police systems can subscribe.

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3. Integration with Enforcement system:

The monitoring application will also enable enforcement agencies to detect violations and take necessary actions. “Whenever a violation is detected by Vehicle Tracking and Monitoring Software it is logged and a copy of the violation would go to the enforcement system of the concerned city/state. The Regional Transport Office (RTO) officials will be able to check the violations instances from the proposed system at the time of issuance/renewal of fitness or permit for a vehicle,” the tender noted.

4. Integration with Integrated Road Accident Database (iRAD):

The application will also be integrated with the iRAD system to facilitate the sharing of data between both platforms. As mentioned in the tender, the monitoring application is expected to share data with the iRAD, covering different aspects such as investigation, road engineering, vehicle condition etc. The data sharing would be real-time as well as based on a specific query and historical data.

“The application should be able to mark Black spot/ Accident spots using the iRAD data on Real-time Maps. The application should also have provision to integrate and display other data like photos/ videos available in iRAD. The integration APIs should share data as required from time to time, the iRAD data points should be used to show relevant alerts and analysis on the application/ maps,” the tender stated.

5. Data sharing with the Transport Ministry

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As per the tender, the implementing agency is also required to facilitate data sharing with the MoRTH as and when required for monitoring the implementation of VLTD.  The State Transport Department is also looking to establish a facility for real-time tracking of vehicles travelling within or outside the defined areas through MoRTH Central dashboard with access to the State/UT system through the same.

Further, the monitoring centre will also provide the State transport department with options for generating various reports such as device installation reports, device uptime reports, number and type of alerts, speed violation reports, fleet summary reports, alert reports, etc. and a dashboard facility for generating standard Management Information System reports based on stakeholder requirements.

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Written By

Curious about the intersection of technology with education, caste and welfare rights. For story tips, please feel free to reach out at sarasvati@medianama.com

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