Every fourth accident on the Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway is caused by a speeding call centre cab. In Delhi, police say, these speeding demons kill at least five people every month.
They are probably the biggest killer on roads today after trucks and Blueline buses. Innocent office goers and commuters are being killed or maimed by these speed monsters regularly even as those in authority are busy washing the blood off their hands.
The ill-trained, ill-paid and many times drunk cab drivers speed at 100 kmph to maintain their strict reporting hours. Though they are not supposed to go over 40 kmph, almost none of these cabs have speed governors to keep a check on speeding. Plans to install Global Positioning System (GPS) in the cabs too remain on paper.
The speed monsters are not only a nuisance on Gurgaon roads but also cause havoc when the travel inside the capital to pick and drop BPO employees. The Delhi Traffic police have arrested 1,097 drivers this year and the Gurgaon police also claim of carrying out special drives but the results are nowhere to be seen.
What the police says
Sumit Kuhar, ACP (East), Gurgaon admits BPO cabs are the biggest nuisance on Gurgaon roads. “They are majority of vehicles challaned by the traffic cops. We have launched a special drive nail such drivers and installed speed guns to check over-speed cabs, especially on the expressway,” he said.
Kuhar said the drivers take advantage of bleak presence of the traffic personnel in the wee hours between 1 and 5 am. But isn’t that expected to be the peak call centre traffic hour? There has been no challaning of over-speed vehicles on the Expressway ever since it opened in February.
The Delhi Police prosecutes 34 call centre cabs a day for various traffic violations and has already prosecuted 7,753 impounded 2,907such cabs this year.
“We convened a meeting with all the major Gurgaon based call centres and warned them with strict disciplinary action if they do not follow traffic guidelines. We asked them to comply with the fixed 40 kmph speed limit as they are commercial vehicles,” said S.N. Srivastava, joint commissioner of police (traffic).
Cab operators' version
The cab operators claim drivers are employed by unorganized small-scale cab operators and travel agencies who don’t spend on training of drivers. BPOs outsource cab operations to travel agencies and do not employ drivers direct.
"Seventy percent of the cab industry is in the hands of unorganized and small scale operators. Most own only one to five cabs and also drive themselves,” said Manav Bahri, owner of the cab agency Golden Ikon that runs cabs for Genpact and American Express.
The cab operators have also approached the Delhi High Court against proposed measures to rein them in. They have challenged a notification issued by the Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) fixing the speed limit of their vehicles at 40 kmph. The notification came following a High Court direction in October last year.
They contend that only the Police Commissioner has powers to issue such regulations and not the DCP and being ‘light motor vehicles’ (LMV), their maximum speed limit should be 65 kmph.
‘There will be chaos, economic loss, and more travel time and man-hour loss to IT employees, BPO industries and corporate companies if the order is implemented’ – they have said.
The BPO companies also claimed that they insist on certified drivers and made it mandatory for the operators to get their drivers certified through DASP tests before they were hired. "We reimburse the cab operators on the money spent on DASP other tests to encourage them to hire professional drivers," said an executive of a BPO company.
BPO cab drivers have their own logic for speeding – punctuality and strict reporting hours, covering huge distances, heavy penalties in case of delays, low wages, long working hours, lack of training and drug addiction.
“Driving at fast speed is driver’s compulsion. We have to report at the pick and drop destinations in time without failure. Money is deducted from our salaries if we report late beyond prescribed time limit,” said Umesh Kumar, a cab driver.
Drivers said that other motorists are at fault too. “Two and three wheeler drivers are not allowed on the expressway but they also speed,” Kumar said.
(With inputs from Vijaita Singh and Harish V. Nair)
250 – Number of IT and Non-IT companies in Gurgaon that hire cabs
7000 – Number of cabs making intra-city and inter-city trips each day
25 – per cent of accidents on the Delhi-Gurgaon are caused by BPO cabs
Rs 4500-6500 – Average monthly emoluments given to drivers
75 – per cent of cabs are owned by small operators (1-5 cabs) who mostly drive themselves.