On August 12, Monica Joon came to Gurgaon and hailed an auto-rickshaw from MG Road Metro station to Nirwana country, Sushant Lok-3. She was visiting a friend along with her sister.
"We were mobbed by 20 auto drivers, asking us where wanted to go. But as soon as we negotiated the fare with one of the drivers, one of them told him 'I will see you' and walked away," Joon said.
When the sisters reached near Jharsa, three men intercepted the auto-rickshaw, pulled the driver out, broke the windscreen and tore up the seats.
"The men asked us to get down or else face music. We requested them to take some money and leave, but they said they had much more than we can earn all our lives," Joon said.
The sisters called for help and hailed a cab to reach their destination, pledging never to ride an auto again.
Many people have similar tales to narrate. With no regulatory structure in place, about 15,000 auto-rickshaw drivers appear to have devised their own system in Gurgaon.
An auto from a particular village can ply his vehicle only on a particular route. Self-styled unions fine them a minimum of Rs 100 if they flout the "rule". As a result, commuters have to change auto-rickshaws thrice on a 5-km stretch.
Rohit Kumar an auto-rickshaw driver told HT, "A driver who is not from Gurgaon faces nightmare. Gurgaon drivers often assault us and rob us of the hard-earned money. I was assaulted last week when I took a passenger to Chakarpur from Palam Vihar. They damaged my auto as well."
Kuldeep Singh, a 'union' leader said, "We fine drivers Rs 100 and warn them not to enter into another driver's jurisdiction. The areas are divided for equal distribution of earnings and to overcome confusion."
However, Bharti Arora, joint commissioner police (traffic) said the police have ensured drivers write their names and phone numbers on their auto-rickshaws.
"They are challaned if these details are not there. People should inform us if they have complaints. We will take strict action against the culprits."