Yes, India is one country. However, we divide it up in so many ways so that we can organize things better. In this series, we will look at how we divide up India for various reasons.

India’s division into political units is known to most of us from our civics classes. So, we will leave that aside for now and take a look at some other kinds of divisions that we don’t usually pay attention to.

Let us begin with vehicles. The English word “vehicle” is from Latin vehiculum, from vehere to carry; similar to Samskrtam vaahana ( वाहन ) vehicle, from vah ( वह् ) to carry.

By definition, a vehicle transports things – goods, people, etc. So, it moves … in geographic space.

Since the industrial revolution, rapid advances in vehicle technologies, and other factors, led to a huge increase in the number of motorized vehicles (MVs) in the world, especially road vehicles. We can now travel farther, faster, more comfortably, and affordably. This, in turn, brought a lot of changes in cultures because MVs brought people everywhere into direct contact with each other.

So many MVs means that we need roads, fuel, and other related facilities. These things cost money! So, government taxes MVs. To tax them, we need to know who owns each MV and where. Every MV needs to be identified properly. Also, if a MV is stolen or is in an accident we need to know who is responsible for the vehicle.

One option is to maintain a list of all the MVs in the country in one location; perhaps in New Delhi. That would be a nightmare because India is a vast country and there are millions of MVs from mopeds to motor bikes, cars to lorries, and buses.

An alternative is to use the existing first-level division of India – the political division into states/union territories, cities, towns, etc. This is what we have done.

Every MV is registered in the state/union territory where it operates primarily. Thus it is geographically tagged. That tag is then linked with all the other information including: the city where it was registered, the RTO zone that controls that particular area of the city, the type of vehicle it is (private, taxi, commercial transport, government, etc.).

Check out this map of two-letter codes for the states and union territories of India (click on image; all links open in a new window/tab):

RTO division of India into zones. (Click on image to open the web page) Source: Wikipedia.

Here is an example:  KA-05-EA-1234 (click on image below; it will open in a new window/tab).

Example of a licence plate number and the geography it holds. Source: The Institute of Geographical Studies. © 2011

KA = Karnataka. 05 = Bangalore (south) Jayanagar. E = privately-owned 2-wheeler. After E, another letter is added; 2 letters can cover more 2-wheelers. 1234 = unique number (up to 4 digits) for that MV.

So, look at the geography: India (country), Karnataka (state), Bangalore (city), Jayanagar (zone within the city), type of vehicle and unique identifying number. With this number, the RTO stores a lot of other information about the vehicle and its owner.

Every MV you see is geography in motion!

Things you can do:

  1. Look up the RTO zones for each state here.
  2. Look up more detailed information on the numbering systems for license plates in India here.
  3. Do you have questions, comments, observations? Use the feedback form at the bottom of your screen to let us know.


3 Responses

  1. Brilliant article. On a similar note, do you think STD codes for telephone numbers can also be studied as geographical markers?

  2. Great help to those who want to open up^those young minds! Good stuff indeed!

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