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Last Updated: Monday, 1 August 2005, 11:06 GMT 12:06 UK
Woe for traffic offenders in Sim city

By Habib Beary
BBC News, Bangalore

Simputer in use in Bangalore
The Simputer connects to the internet to track past offences
Vivek heads to college on his Yamaha motorbike with a frown.

Upcoming exams are not his concern - it is a hand-held gadget the traffic police have started using.

Bangalore, India's hi-tech hub that hosts multinational giants including IBM, Motorola and Philips, is the first city in India to be given the Simputer to fine traffic offenders.

Described as "the people's computer" for its affordable price and ease of use, this paperback-sized console can fine traffic violators even for previous offences.

'Transparency'

Vivek is among the 200,000 defaulters in Bangalore alone.

Ajai Kumar Singh
We have collected over 250,000 rupees ($5,800) by way of fines for past violations
Ajai Kumar Singh

The $230 Simputer flashes details of previous offences and the fine due.

Authorities say it is linked online to a database of 2.2m registered vehicles.

The online connection helps track defaulters speedily.

It also helps achieve transparency in traffic rule enforcement, police say.

"In one case, we fined a van driver for 10 previous violations," Bangalore police commissioner, Ajai Kumar Singh, told the BBC.

"Within days of introducing these gadgets, we have collected over 250,000 rupees ($5,800) by way of fines for past violations."

More than 150 policemen have been trained to handle the Simputer - the "sim" stands for simple, inexpensive and multilingual - developed by a team of scientists from India's prestigious Institute of Science, based in Bangalore.

Mr Singh says 30 machines are in operation and 30 more will be added soon.

"Earlier, it took a long time to get records of previous offences. Now it is so easy," says Inspector Lokesh Kumar as he puts the gadget to use.

Dusty records

Simputers Encore Software says it was developed to bridge the digital divide and bring computers to citizens of poor and developing countries, tailored to local needs.

Simputer in use in Bangalore
Three-wheel cab drivers may be a particular target

Users can carry out basic applications, like word processing, spreadsheets and access the internet.

Encore's chairman, Vinay Deshpande, says: "I have spoken to a couple of cops who have used it. They are excited as it is making their life much easier."

Police previously had to pore laboriously over dusty records in regional transport offices to find the addresses of traffic violators.

"It was such a headache. We are now so relieved, but more machines have to be brought into a big city like Bangalore to keep track of offenders," said one constable at a busy junction.

The Simputer has put a particular scare into motorised three-wheeler cab drivers, often bracketed as habitual offenders.

"Some of them want to sell their autos rather than get caught," the constable says.


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