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HindustanTimes Wed,17 Sep 2014

Rude drivers, unnerving journeys

Nikita Sonavane and Sanjana Bhalerao, Hindustan Times  Mumbai, June 13, 2012
First Published: 01:28 IST(13/6/2012) | Last Updated: 01:30 IST(13/6/2012)

It may be safer to travel by autos and taxis in Mumbai compared to several other cities in the country, but it’s becoming a fairly uncomfortable experience, say women.

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Setting aside the fact that finding an auto or taxi driver willing to take you where you want to go is really tough, women complain that they are fed up with dealing with drivers who are rude and untrustworthy, who flaunt rules and try to fleece them.

While the Railways post security guards in compartments and the BEST is installing CCTVs, there is no monitoring authority when it comes to cabs and autos. This makes it easy for offenders to repeatedly trouble women, and tough for women to do something to change the situation.

“I once injured myself while trying to sit in an auto and the driver drove off as he didn’t want to take me where I wanted to go. Instead of apologising, he was defiant. I took up the matter with the union, but they have done nothing. They say they are unable to track him despite having his registration number,” said Manali Bhavsar, 23, a resident of Andheri (west).

“Many auto drivers keep leering at you through the rearview mirror. It is extremely annoying,” said Tanvi Rangenkar, 21, a student and resident of Mahim.

The problem is worse at night, complain women commuters. “I took an auto home from Bandra. When the driver started speeding, blasting loud music and singing along, I told him to slow down, but he didn’t bother. Finally I got off mid-way, paid and left,” said a 21-year-old who works with the media, not wishing to be identified.

Taxi drivers are no better. “I took a cab from Marine lines to Colaba. I usually pay Rs. 35 to Rs. 40, but the driver asked me to pay Rs. 75. When I asked  him to get his meter checked, he started yelling and getting abusive,” said Taab Arshad, 20, a resident of Byculla.

Sharad Rao, leader of the Mumbai Autorickshawmen’s Union, said: “Show me the number of written complaints. I have not received a single complaint in writing. I am not saying that such incidents don’t take place, but they are negligible.”

Past incidents:
January 5, 2012: A 20-year-old girl was allegedly harassed by a taxi driver who passed lewd comments at her after she got off the cab outside her college in south Mumbai. The victim took a cab from Grant Road station at around 9.15 am. She got off and paid the driver, Israr Ahmed Ali Khan, 35, a resident of Tardeo. The victim said that the driver made ‘unspeakable’ lewd comments at her.

October 1, 2011: Girija Devi Upadhyay, 65, along with her daughter and daughter-in-law, were allegedly manhandled by an autorickshaw driver in Vikhroli. The three had approached the autorickshaw driver but he refused to ply, leading to an argument. Another auto driver then joined in. Upadhyay’s son, Subhash, intervened and the argument turned violent. In the melee, the three women were also allegedly hurt, while Subhash was attacked with an iron rod.


‘A dangerous ride home in speeding auto late at night’

Last December, after being conned by an auto driver on a secluded road in Delhi, I found myself bragging about the safety of public transport in Mumbai to my friend.

Two months later, I got a rude shock when an auto driver behaved really badly. It was around 11.30pm and I got into an auto at Kanjurmarg station to get home. He started off at average speed but no sooner did we cross the signal at Gandhinagar junction, where a traffic policeman is usually stationed, that he started driving at breakneck speed.

I asked him to slow down, but he ignored me. I threatened to report him to the police, but he refused to take me seriously and said: “You do what you want.”

He also kept singing songs and taunting me. I was not sure I would get another auto at that time there, so I did not dare to ask him to stop and let go of the auto.

I also did not have any helpline number with me to complain.

The driver refused to drop me to my building, saying that the lane leading up to it was too narrow. I was forced to pay him the fare and walk the remaining distance.

Last December, after being conned by an auto driver on a secluded road in Delhi, I found myself bragging about the safety of public transport in Mumbai to my friend.

Two months later, I got a rude shock when an auto driver behaved really badly. It was around 11.30pm and I got into an auto at Kanjurmarg station to get home. He started off at average speed but no sooner did we cross the signal at Gandhinagar junction, where a traffic policeman is usually stationed, that he started driving at breakneck speed.

I asked him to slow down, but he ignored me. I threatened to report him to the police, but he refused to take me seriously and said: “You do what you want.”

He also kept singing songs and taunting me. I was not sure I would get another auto at that time there, so I did not dare to ask him to stop and let go of the auto.

I also did not have any helpline number with me to complain.

The driver refused to drop me to my building, saying that the lane leading up to it was too narrow. I was forced to pay him the fare and walk the remaining distance.


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