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Explainer: All about FASTag and implementation issues

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FASTag is going to become mandatory at all NHAI toll plazas from 15 December 2019. What all do you need to know about FASTag?  What are the implementation issues? Here is a detailed explainer.

The Ministry of Roads Transport and Highways (MoRTH) has made it mandatory for highway motor vehicle users to adopt Fastag for the payment of tolls across the country. The date of implementation has been deferred to 15 December 2019. The Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) system has been rolled out by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) to reduce the traffic congestion and allow smooth movement of traffic on highways by digital toll collection.

Media reported about a recent study by a start-up which estimated that fuel, man-hours and carbon emissions worth more than Rs.10,000 crores is lost every year due to traffic congestion at toll plazas.

This story explains what Fastag is and how it works along with the implementation issues.

Use of Fastag is mandatory from 15 December 2019

MoRTH issued a notification on 02 November 2017 that all vehicles (M and N categories) being sold since 01 December 2017 should be affixed with Fastag on the windscreen as per the government’s specifications. This was the government’s first move towards digitising toll collection. It has now been made compulsory for all four wheelers, old & new.

FASTag_Standard Procedures for FASTag

How does Fastag work?

FASTag acts as a transponder and operates on Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology. The operation is similar to that of smart cards used in metros. The tag should be secured in the centre of the windscreen of the vehicle. As the vehicle crosses boom barrier, a device scans the tag and money gets deducted automatically from the holder’s account. SMS notification will be sent to the registered mobile number for every transaction.

Where is it issued?

Fastags are available with 22 certified banks, Amazon, Paytm, petrol pumps and at some PoS locations such as highway counters and RTOs. Till 15 December 2019, MoRTH has announced that the tags will be given free of cost at the NHAI PoS counters. For purchasing tags online through Amazon or banks, one has to pay Rs.100 in addition to the refundable security deposit of Rs. 200. The tags which are purchased from banks do not allow the customer to link it to any account of their choice. It will be linked to the account one holds in that bank.  The tags have a validity of five years.

What are the documents required to purchase?

To purchase tags, one will have to submit the Registration Certificate of vehicle (RC), KYC documents (ID Proof), along with a passport size photograph of the owner. For tags purchased online, upon downloading the MyFastag application (Android), one has to fill basic personal details and that of vehicle.

How to recharge?

The account linked to the tag can be a savings account or a prepaid account. If a prepaid account is used, it should be recharged as and when required using Debit card/ Credit Card/ NEFT/ RTGS and internet banking. In case of savings bank account, money is automatically debited from the account for recharging the tag. Minimum recharge amount is Rs.100 and maximum is Rs. 1 Lakh. In addition, customers should also pay a convenience fee based on the transaction value.

What if one does not have Fastag?

Those who do not possess Fastag will have to use a separate lane and pay twice the actual toll amount if they drive through a Fastag lane. Hybrid lanes on either side of the highway (left extreme) will be allotted for those without Fastag.

Helpline number 1033 for customers announced by Ministry

For assistance with respect to neutral Fastags, customers can call the helpline number 1033. For assistance in case of Fastags issued at banks, each bank has a separate Customer Care number as listed below.

FASTag_Helpline numbers table for FASTag

More information including that related to issuers and location is also available in the My Fastag application. Standard Operating Procedures for road users issued by the Ministry is available here.

The SOP to be adhered to by toll operators can be accessed here. Monthly passes and concessions for those staying near toll plazas are also available. Answers to some frequently asked questions are also available on the NHAI website.

More than 70 lakh Fastags sold as on 27 November 2019

As per the press release on 27 November 2019, more than 70 Lakh Fastags were already issued. On 26 November 2019 alone, more than 1.35 Lakh tags were issued. On an average, in July 2019, around 8000 tags were sold every day. This increased to a daily average of around 35,000 tags in November 2019.

Multiple issues in the implementation

While the government has been stressing on how Fastag would avoid tailgating and ensure seamless movement of vehicles at toll gates, the scheme has also been criticized for multiple implementation issues.

One is that there is no standardisation in initial top up (threshold) purchase in banks. Furthermore, there is no portability in the sense that Fastag purchased from one bank cannot be recharged through other banks or wallets.

The scheme has also been criticised for being favourable to banks for the high Merchant Discount Rate. If the scheme is about making seamless traffic movement at toll plazas resulting in the reduction of required human resources, the benefit should be passed onto the road users. On the contrary, consumers are forced to pay an extra convenience fee whenever they recharge the Fastag wallet.

On the implementation side, possibility of technical glitch such as multiple transactions cannot be ruled out which might result in a long list of grievances.  It is also not clear as to who all will have access to the transaction data that can become a valuable resource for multiple players.

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