Despite widely publicised campaigns by city Regional Transport Offices (RTOs) against errant auto-rickshaw drivers, commuters continue to suffer. The number of complaints on the helpline launched by India Against Corruption (IAC) has now crossed 4,700.
"The helpline receives 200 complaints daily; the number has not reduced," said IAC's Preeti Sharma.
Commuters and activists insist that instead of launching special drives, the RTOs should enforce daily inspections across the city. "Instead of conducting sporadic drives against tampered meters, officials should have daily checks to deter auto-rickshaw drivers from fleecing commuters," Sharma said.
Though the Wadala and Andheri RTOs are conducting rigorous drives since the beginning of this month, commuters find no change in the ground situation. Transport activists attributed this to the fact that very few rickshaws were checked every day. "Over 1 lakh autos run on city roads every day. Only a few hundred of these are checked," said transport activist Jagdeep Desai. He suggested that the RTO could work around the problem by involving activist groups during the periodic inspections conducted to certify roadworthiness.
Consumer organisations insisted that manpower issues should not come in the way of consumer interest. "Transport authorities lay the blame for infrequent checks on shortage of manpower. We advised them to outsource the meter inspection process, the way they have done with vehicle towing agencies," said Shirish Deshpande, chairman of Mumbai Grahak Panchayat.
However, Bharat Kalaskar, deputy RTO (Andheri), did not agree with these suggestions. "We have registered 218 cases in less than eight days. The drives will be held frequently in the future as well," he said. A senior official from Wadala office also sought to defend the system saying his squads had registered 10 cases on Tuesday. Kalaskar added that action was taken against errant rickshaw drivers on a daily basis even when special drives were not carried out.