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Separated at birth: Taxis of yore and today’s autos

Hindustan Times  New Delhi, January 21, 2011
First Published: 01:18 IST(21/1/2011) | Last Updated: 12:50 IST(1/9/2011)

Overcharging, not going by the meter; rude; declining to go to a destination — sounds like an autowallah in Delhi? We are actually talking about the taxi drivers of the Capital of 1920s.


If most Delhiites love to hate autowallahs today, it was the case with the taxi drivers of the newly declared Capital. The taxi drivers would usually ask for the fare before allowing the passenger to even enter the taxi. They were also notorious for not agreeing to go to  areas in the upcoming and deserted New Delhi. According to archival police records, fights between passengers and taxi drivers, mainly at the railway stations, were a common occurrence. Interestingly, caught in these fights, recorded in the government files of 1920 to 1935, the passengers were usually Europeans.

In one such recorded incident on November 5, 1929, a British army officer Dawson, along with three sergeants, got into a fight with two taxi drivers, Lehna Singh and Gajja Singh at the Delhi station. The passengers wanted to go to Queen’s Road but the drivers didn’t because the area is deserted at night and they wouldn’t find passengers while returning. The drivers then asked for the fare in advance, which resulted in the fight and the passengers were hurt. No case was registered, as it was a not a cognisable offence.

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