Rash driving, tampering of number plates, overloading, misbehaviour with passengers and open violation of traffic rules characterise an auto driver in Gurgaon.
The big-time operators and mafia rope in rogue elements as drivers as they are better equipped to arm-twist and extort money from hapless commuters. In the absence of an efficient and well-managed public transport system that can connect all NCR cities, residents are forced to depend on these notorious three-wheelers, including shared autos.
But do not expect any relief, just as yet. Commuters who have been hoping to skip the daily haggling over rates with auto drivers will have to wait longer as the state transport department is yet to approve the administration's proposal of regulating the tariff and applying uniform rates.
Almost 75% of the population depends on public transport but the administration has failed to provide them an efficient option, so far.
The administration had also fixed a deadline for autorickshaw drivers to get meters installed but this was never imposed strictly and order remained on paper.
Whenever the administration has tried to rein in errant autos in the past, the operators resort to blackmail techniques by announcing a strike, leaving the city transport system crippled.
"The administration had asked us to check the installation of speed governors in autos last year. More than 15,000 'shared autos' went off the roads on a call given by the auto operators' union to protest the increase in taxes and the challan drive initiated by the traffic police," said city police official.
"These drivers are local villagers and have a fixed area of plying autos. No driver dares to violate another's 'territory'. If it happens, then the driver is thrashed by other local drivers. These drivers are often involved in snatchings, car thefts and other petty crimes. If the police take action against them, local villagers get together and stage a protest," said a police official, requesting anonymity.
"They park their autos anywhere, encroaching upon road space that leads to traffic jams. Majority of the drivers are underage and many of them have a criminal background. They charge exorbitant rates which is not affordable for daily commuters. The lack of a proper Metro feeder service is also a big concern," said Neeti Nigam, a resident.
The auto drivers are also accused of threatening their counterparts who work with private initiatives such as pink autos, Tuk-Tuk and battery-operated rickshaws.
Meanwhile, auto union leaders said some anti-social elements who become auto drivers and ply vehicles illegally are involved in such activities.
"We are aware of the problem and are doing our bit to improve the situation. We are in touch with the city administration and we will work with them to ease the problems of commuters," said Raju Pradhan, a sharing auto union leader in Gurgaon.
"We admit that the CNG autos and sharing autos are creating problem in the city but people are still forced to travel in them. We are working on this and will soon have an organised and good auto service. This step will surely provide a comfortable journey to passengers," said Gurgaon deputy commissioner PC Meena.