After years of helplessly tolerating the whims of arrogant taxi drivers, there is hope in sight for Mumbai's long-suffering citizens.
Starting September 1, the transport department will crack down on all taxi and auto rickshaw drivers who refuse fares. There have been too many complaints from citizens, officials said. Till August 16 (last updated), the department has received 3,311 complaints on their helpline number 1800-22-0110 that was launched on June 25. Of this, more than 70 per cent are of refusal to ply short distances.
The problem came to the fore after the recent Meter Jam campaign where Mumbaiites dumped taxis and auto rickshaws for a day. On Friday, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray discussed the issue with the transport commissioner.
Transport Commissioner Dilip Jadhav said, "We will start our drive against auto and taxi drivers from September 1 for refusing to ply. And, we are continuing our drive against taxis and auto rickshaws using illegal permits."
Hindustan Times first reported about the transport department's plan to conduct this drive on August 14, soon after the Meter Jam campaign ended.
The transport department will soon be posting plain-clothes officers from the Regional Transport Office (RTOs) at various locations where they receive maximum complaints of refusal to ply. Jadhav has been receiving several complaints from his officers, too, especially at Andheri, Ghatkopar, Bandra, Dadar and Borivli on the same issue.
Meanwhile, Raj Thackeray, during his 15-minute meeting, also questioned the transport department's stand on illegal permits to taxi and auto drivers, the influx of North Indian drivers who don't understand the topography of Mumbai and the manner in which taxi and auto driving licences and permits are issued without thorough verification.
Officials from the transport department were quick to explain that they had already started a drive against illegal taxis running without proper permits. "Driving licences are issued to drivers only after verifying solid proof like ration card or PAN card. We have already stopped issuing fresh permits for taxis and autos in the last 10 years," an RTO officer said.
Coming to the problem of the helpline number being inaccessible, the department will install electronic caller machines, which don't keep the number busy for too long. The transport department will now start helpline numbers in Thane, Navi Mumbai, Pune, Nashik and Nagpur.