A day after transport minister Madan Mitra announced a slew of measures to rein in auto-raj ripple effects were felt among auto drivers as police took to enforcing the law.
The Dharmatola-Lohapool route, perhaps among the noisiest in the city, showed signs of submissiveness as no music was found blaring from the autos. This route is infamous for passenger harassment and no matter what laws get enacted the drivers of this route find it difficult to mend their ways. But on Wednesday, it was different. “The minister has ordered that no music should be played in the autos while driving. We will do as he says,” said Mohammad Ali (registration number WB04E0751).
On Tuesday, Mitra announced a ban on playing music, LED lights, mobile phones and smoking while driving. He also limited the number of passengers to four for autos and five for taxis. Uniforms, identity cards and high security number plates would be introduced for the drivers. Any driver found guilty would be charged hefty fine and his permit would be cancelled for six months. Helpline numbers 1073 and 6451678 would have to be made clearly visible inside the autos.
“I don’t understand the relation between a girl being dragged by an auto and banning music and LED lights in running autos. Why should all of us be penalised for a single person’s fault? I installed a new music system in my auto and thanks to the government I will not be able to play it now. Yesterday, the police came in the evening around seven and threatened us to switch off our music systems and LED lights while ferrying passengers,” complained Mohammad Hafeez (registration number WB04V8431).
While it may not be clear to Hafeez why the ban was enforced, the reality is that loud music does affect the driver and the commuter in a number of ways.
For one, it diverts the concentration of the driver. Then, he might not be able to listen to the horns of vehicles behind him and take the wrong turn.
He might not be able to listen to the passenger when the person tells him to stop at his destination. The passenger might not be able to listen clearly to the person on the other side of the line while on phone. LED lights might be too bright for the driver of an oncoming vehicle and increase chances of an accident.
On the other hand, police conducted raids on the Park Circus-Bridge No 4 route to rein in errant drivers. Autos blaring music and carrying more than four passengers were stopped. On one occasion, an auto driver Akbar Khan tried to escape by hitting traffic sergeant Mohan Mukherjee, but he was chased down soon and his auto seized.
“We are trying to make sure that rules are being followed,” said traffic inspector N Ali.
Commuters though welcomed the steps of the government. “It is commendable that the government is at least thinking of controlling the raging autos. Let’s see how far it can be implemented. We are all fed up with their antics,” said housewife Sujata Sen.