It was during 2014 due to the hassles of a toll collection when FASTag was introduced for an easier and smoother way of collecting toll money. It was initially formed on the Golden Quadrilateral (national highway network connecting the four major quadrilateral cities of Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, and Delhi along with other major cities) between Mumbai and Delhi during November 2014.
From 2016, it had been used by as many as 340+ plazas across the country.
By December 2019, FasTag became compulsory pan India. From January 2021, it was made compulsory at every toll booth in India.
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What is it all about and how does it work?
In simple words, it is an electronic toll collection system instead of manually collecting, owned by NHAI (National Highway Authority of India). Revenue collection is done via NETC (National Electronic Toll Collection).
A smart card is operated on which can be issued through Amazon, Paytm or bank websites like Axis Bank, Kotak Bank, ICICI Bank etc.
Besides these, it has two components not visible to the naked eye; a chip and an antenna that helps in recognizing information like vehicle class, vehicle weight, FASTag ID, Vehicle Registration number, Wheel Base (distance between two axles) etc. It is pasted on the windshield of the car and it gets immediately scanned once you drive through the plaza.
The system uses Radio Frequency Identification Technology (RFID) to read the card and send the information to Acquirer Bank (bank that works on behalf of toll plaza). The said bank will send this information further to NETC Mapper (that contains all registered FASTag information) which tells the bank if the card is valid or not and can be thus, processed or not.
Once the card is deemed valid, your transaction is successful and the boom barrier opens. An SMS will be sent to your number stating the amount deducted.
Cars are required to maintain a four meters distance from the toll area to avoid situations like failure to scan properly and malpractices such as avoidance of payment. Only one FASTag can be issued for one vehicle and not multiple vehicles.
FASTag uses different colour cards for various vehicles.
For private cars, an M type of card is used that is purple in car.
Similarly, N type of cards are used as:
- Commercial cars (rented, small loaded ones) — Orange
- With two Axles — Green
- With three Axles — Yellow
- With four, five, six axles — Pink
- With seven or above axles — Sky Blue
- Machines (Like JCB) — Black
How to recharge and check balance:
For FASTag, it can be registered through either the MyFASTag app or through Paytm after which necessary details have to be filled in and your account gets activated.
The minimum amount rechargable is hundred rupees while the maximum amount one
can recharge with is one lakh rupees.
You can link your FASTag to your account though it is often said to be slow, so it is advisable to maintain a separate online account. In case of a direct link to a bank account, you do not need to recharge through pre-paid wallets.
However, if it is a pre-paid wallet, one can recharge FASTag through UPI, Net Banking, Debit or Credit Cards.
You can check your FASTag balance through three methods:-
1) Through website
Just log through any browser and go to fastag.ihmcl.com. Login and you will see your
transaction history and search for your account balance.
2) Through application
Download the “My FASTag”. Go to Payments Recharge your NHAI Wallet. Give your registered phone number, enter OTP and check your balance.
3) Missed call
The last option would require you to give a missed call at 8884333331. You will be sent a message displaying your available balance.
Pros and cons of FASTag
FASTag is a technological creation that will help in the reduction of time wastage, fuel emission due to long waiting hours, and thus pollution.
It will also help in tracking the car as an SMS is sent to the user stating the amount deducted and the details of the toll plaza.
It reduces the manpower required and a more effective system devoid of errors, corruption, and quick service.
FASTag can be often used for scams. Tollbooth operators might ask for cash stating
disfunction of machine and by the time the user has reached a certain distance, the amount is deducted again from account, thus having to give double the charge.
Technological issues might occur. Often at times, the heat itself can be a bane for the FASTag card as overheating might lead to the memory chip being damaged.
Cloning and privacy breach through illegal practices.
So, in order to avoid these, it must be remembered that avoid paying cash. NHAI has issued a gazette stating no payment can be done via cash.
You can also use the FASTag helpline number: 1033
Lastly, one can also use the grievance portal to solve queries: https://pgportal.gov.in/
In the fiscal year of 2019-20, electronic toll collection was worth 11000+ crores while the fiscal year of 2020-21 (up until 17th February) the collection increased to 18000+ crores with registered users increasing with every passing day.
Electronic toll collection in the era of digitalization is the forward direction. From cashless transactions to seamless operations without having to stop every time for manual payment is not only efficacious during the Age of the Internet but also helpful during tough times of a pandemic.