Hari Singh, 58, and Mukul Sahni, 25, are truck drivers over three decades apart in age, but bound by a fascination for a new document that's part of the centre's GST regime - the E-way bill. The new system, introduced in April this year, requires the use of this electronically generated number to be carried in person by truckers. It helps the government to track the movement of goods by trucks. The government has also pitched it as an anti-evasion measure, compared to the earlier system of paper documents that was more prone to corruption.
For both drivers, E-way bills mean a cut in travel time and less harassment on the road. Hari Singh, who we met on the outskirts of Lucknow, spent the last six days ferrying Maruti spare parts from Chennai to Lucknow - that's over 2,000 kilometres. Before E-way bills, the journey took 140 hours and exhaustive paperwork checks on four border check posts. Now, his travel time has lessened by 10 hours.
"Earlier they used to check all our documents and it used to take time. Now they just look at the E-bill and let us go. Earlier they used to make us open the cargo and they used to inspect it physically", says Mr Singh.
Mukul Sahni, who has driven his truck up to Maharashtra in the past, is also happy with the new system. "Earlier you had to spend days at the border... You had to get individual stamps on your documents. They used to check and also used to trouble us", he says.
In Barabanki, near Lucknow, 24-year-old Mohit Agarwal helps run a firm with a turnover of Rs 500 crore. They make agricultural implements, have five factories here, and 50-60 trucks moving daily to states like Telangana, and even across the border to Nepal. "Earlier we had to go to the sales tax department here - they charged us Rs 100-200 commission for every bill. My man or lawyer had to go in the morning, he was made to wait till evening. This for just three-four trucks. He had to liaison with so many officers. Now it is like PayTm, you click, enter your number and generate whatever you want", says Mr Agarwal.
But not everyone is convinced, especially trader associations in Lucknow who say the small trader who does not use computers so much will be inconvenienced.
"We say that there should be no need of the E-way bills. The government should believe traders. Also all of the responsibility is with the trader. Now should a small trader do his business or spend all his time in E-way bills, GST returns, invoices", asks Sanjay Gupta, chairman of Uttar Pradesh Adarsh Vyapaar Mandal.
Latest government figures suggest that the number of E-way bills generated since April 1 till June 30, 2018, is more than 11.6 crore. About 2.8 crore, 3.7 crore and 5.1 crore E-way bills were generated in April, May and June, 2018 respectively.