On Tuesday, the state government came up with a slew of measures aimed at curbing the increasing high-handedness of auto-rickshaw and taxi drivers in the city but failed to outline how these measures would be implemented given the nexus between police, transport unions and politicians.
“The state government has taken a number of tough decisions to rein in auto-rickshaw and taxi drivers. A few decision have been taken in regard to country boat operators, who ferry passengers in villages,” said state transport minister, Madan Mitra, at Writers’ Building after an hour-long meeting with transport union leaders, top police officials and senior transport department officials.
Tuesday’s meeting was called on an emergency basis after a four-year-old girl was grievously injured and traumatised when she fell off an auto in Sinthi on August 16.
The measures announced by the transport minister include banning music systems and LED lights on autos, limiting the number of passengers to four in case of autos, and five in case of taxis. Also high-security number plates will be introduces, and drivers will not be allowed to talk on mobile phones or smoke while driving. Uniforms and identity cards will also be issued to drivers.
“The frequency of complaints that drivers are refusing to take passengers or go beyond a particular point despite taking more money, playing loud music which impairs concentration, speaking on mobile phones while driving etc has increased enormously,” said Mitra.
Police have been asked to crack down on auto-rickshaws and taxis if they violate any of these measures, and even union leaders have been requested to monitor the vehicles on a regular basis and take stringent measures.
“If we get any serious complaints against auto-rickshaw, the transport department will cancel their permits and the union leaders would disallow the concerned driver for at least six months,” added the transport minister.
Asked to define the nature of these so-called ‘serious’ complaints, the minister was noncommittal, and evaded the question, simply saying, “Complaints that you think are serious may not be serious at all.” He said that even passengers would have to protest against violations if they noticed any.