From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : RFID technology
Mains level : FASTags
From December 1, lanes on NH toll plazas across India will accept toll only through FASTag. One hybrid lane will continue to accept cash in addition to being tag-enabled.
What is ‘FASTag’?
- FASTags are stickers that are affixed to the windscreen of vehicles and use Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology to enable digital, contactless payment of tolls without having to stop at toll gates.
- The tags are linked to bank accounts and other payment methods.
- As a car crosses a toll plaza, the amount is automatically deducted, and a notification is sent to the registered mobile phone number.
How does it work?
- The device employs Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology for payments directly from the prepaid or savings account linked to it.
- It is affixed on the windscreen, so the vehicle can drive through plazas without stopping.
- RFID technology is similar to that used in transport access-control systems, like Metro smart card.
- If the tag is linked to a prepaid account like a wallet, or a debit/credit card, then owners need to recharge/top up the tag.
- If it is linked to a savings account, rthen money will get deducted automatically after the balance goes below a pre-defined threshold.
- Once a vehicle crosses the toll, the owner will get an SMS alert on the deduction. In that it is like a prepaid e-wallet.
How can one buy it?
- E-commerce portals like Amazon and PayTM sell these tags issued by various banks.
- Places, where these counters are set up, include Road Transport Authority offices, transport hubs, bank branches, and selected petrol pumps.
- A FASTag bought from NHAI comes with a one-time fee of Rs 100 besides a refundable security deposit of Rs 150.
- Apart from the currently free tags at NHAI booths, there is also a cashback of 2.5 per cent on FASTag transactions as an offer.
- In the tag taken from NHAI, the Rs 150 security deposit, which the government is bearing as a promotion, comes back to the user as wallet value if the FASTag is linked to the NHAI e-wallet in the “My FASTag app” mobile app.
- So in this particular scheme, the user gets Rs 150 back without even paying it.
- A FASTag is valid for five years, and can be recharged as and when required.
- Vehicles entering FASTag lanes without FASTag will be charged twice the toll amount.
Will those living close to toll roads not end up paying more frequently?
- As per a government notification, users living within 10 km of a toll plaza can avail a concession on toll to be paid via FASTag.
- They need to submit proof of residence and nearest point-of-sale location to validate.
- Once the address is verified, the concession is ensured via FASTag affixed on the vehicle.
Is it working smoothly?
- The tags sold by banks are not “bank-neutral”.
- A FASTag bought from one bank can be recharged through that particular bank only and not through other banks.
- However, tags sold/distributed by NHAI are bank-neutral as one can use any bank account to recharge/top up the value in the tag.
What about state highways?
- Under a new “One Nation One FASTag” scheme, the NHAI is trying to get states on board so that one tag can be used seamlessly across highways, irrespective of whether it is the state or the Centre that owns/manages it.
- Recently as part of a pilot, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Haryana signed MoUs with the Centre to accept FASTags in state highways also.