Chandigarh: As if the reputation of their city having the highest density of motor vehicles in India was not enough, Chandigarh residents have developed a fondness for splurging lakhs on VIP car registration numbers too.
With one car owner spending Rs.10 lakh in May 2010 on the number plate of his Toyota Fortuner SUV (priced at Rs.20 lakhs), the numbers game in the Union Territory has literally been on a high.
The latest to join the bandwagon is disgraced former Haryana director general of police (DGP) S.P.S. Rathore, who was convicted December 2009 for molesting a teenaged girl, Ruchika Girotra, in Panchkula town in August 1990.
Rathore has picked up the registration number CH01-AM-0001 for a whopping Rs.905,001 for a new Mercedes car that he bought for his wife, Abha Rathore.
The ex-DGP, who is currently on bail after spending nearly six months in jail following his conviction, has bought a C-class Mercedes for his lawyer wife, who fought his legal battles in various courts in the case.
"My wife is the number one woman in this world. I have bought the number for her," Rathore told reporters here Tuesday, his famous smirk intact.
The Registration and Licencing Authority (RLA) here ended up with a revenue of Rs.75 lakh from the auction of VIP numbers for the new series (CH01-AM-0001).
"I don`t understand the craze for these VIP numbers and people spending lakhs of rupees on them. For that kind of amount, one can easily buy a luxury sedan," Abhishek Chadha, a final year student, said here.
In recent years, the VIP number `0001` has gone for a price ranging from Rs.70,000 to Rs.10 lakh.
Tuesday`s auction for the numbers at the RLA office here went on till 10 p.m. Over 800 people had bid for various numbers of their choice, including VIP numbers. Even the number `0100` fetched Rs.201,000 for the government.
"Earlier the VIP numbers used to be taken away by VIPs and influential people. Now, anyone who has the money and craze can bid. But the amount of money that people are spending on registration numbers is unbelievable," an RLA official told IANS.
Chandigarh resident Narinder Singh Shergill is the first one in the region to break the Rs.1 million barrier in May 2010 to get the vehicle registration number of his choice, CH01-AC-0001.
The city has the distinction of having one of the highest densities of motor vehicles in the country. For a population of just over one million, there are nearly 650,000 registered motor vehicles in the city.
Every year, three to four new series of registration numbers is launched in Chandigarh.