Late May, the government instigated the “Ehlakin Mashah License” (license in one go) programme in the capital Male, which resulted in thousands of citizens queuing up over the weekend in order to take their driving practical and theory exams on the same day. The programme was so popular that the Maldives Transport Authority had even extended it.
While the programme allowed citizens an easy access to attain their driving licenses, it did not fail to raise eyebrows. According to some participants, they only had to do very minimal driving and in some instances, the driving instructor had specifically told the new drivers what to do.
The driving exams – theory and practical – were allegedly much easier than the usual driving exam, and the exam procedures were different too.
Over 5,000 licenses were handed out over a week.
This week, local driving schools brought out ads for special driving lessons for the recipients of the “Ehlakin Mashah License” programme.
“Guidance Driving School” in the capital Male were offering driving lessons to the new license recipients for about MVR 1,000. The price for beginner drivers is usually between MVR 1,500 – MVR 2,000, depending on the type of vehicle.
According to the owner of “Guidance Driving School”, Ilyas Mohamed, the programme was initiated as per the request of its students. Many individuals who were learning how to drive from the school had taken the fast-tracked route to attaining their licenses, but they still wanted to practice driving more, he said.
“I wouldn’t say they don’t know how to drive at all,” Ilyas told local newspaper Mihaaru. “We’re just going to be giving them more practice in things like parking and reversing and other techniques.”
Meanwhile, the public grievances about the “Ehlakin Mashah License” programme keeps growing with the increase in road accidents recently.
A 24-year-old student who was jogging in reclaimed suburb Hulhumale passed away during the weekend after being struck by a motorbike driven by an 18-year-old. The week before, a 33-year-old man suffered traumatic head injuries, and still remains in a coma at the Tree Top Hospital in Hulhumale, also after an accident.
Many have taken to social media to point out the “ridiculousness” of initiating driving lessons after licenses had been handed out. The incident has, however, sparked a public conversation about road safety and what can be done to avoid fatal accidents.