The state transport department’s claim that electronic meters are tamper-proof was proved wrong when regional transport office (RTO) officials caught a mechanic tampering with one.
This is the first time that e-meter tampering has come to light, though taxi and auto rickshaw unions having been claiming the same for a long time now.
Based on information by sources, the RTO’s flying squad attached to the transport commissioner laid a trap and caught mechanic, Viru Aslam Shaikh, an employee at Rihan meter works in Ghatkopar, while tampering with an e-meter.
To catch him red handed, the driver of a newly registered autorickshaw was sent as bait, posing as a customer who wanted his meter to be tampered with. The mechanic allegedly broke the seal of the e-meter and made it fast by 60 paisa per stage, for which he charged Rs. 1,000. “To make the e-meter faster, he inserted a magnet inside the circuit, to increase its pulse rate”, said an RTO official on the condition of anonymity. The flying squad has filed a complaint with the Vikhroli Parksite police, who later arrested Shaikh. He has been sent to judicial custody for 14 days by a lower court.
Though evidence of e-meter tampering has been found, the transport department is not planning to take any immediate action. “If we get any concrete leads, we will certainly take strong action. At present, we have requested the public to inform us of any instance of tampering that they may find,” said Satish Sahastrabuddhe, joint transport commissioner.
The transport department was also shocked as manufacturers had claimed that e-meters could not be tampered with. “They had assured us that if anybody tried to tamper with e-meters; an error message would be flashed on the screen. We were given demonstrations as well,” said a senior RTO official.
The transport department had made e-meters mandatory for all autorickshaws in the state from March. While they are compulsory for new autorickshaws at the time of registration, old ones must get them installed at the time of renewal of physical fitness.