Although several incidents in the recent past have underscored the need for background checks of autorickshaw and taxi drivers, the Mumbai traffic police and regional transport offices continue to pass the buck over who is responsible for the verification of drivers’ documents.
That perhaps explains why even eight months after the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Transport Authority’s order, most drivers in the city haven’t displayed the permit and helpline numbers in their vehicles.
Of the 20 autorickshaws checked randomly by this HT reporter on Tuesday, 17 did not have their permits on display, while only a couple of them have put up the helpline numbers.
Vinay Bagade, assistant commissioner of police, traffic, said, “We have distributed the stickers with helpline numbers to 80% of the drivers.”
While a few auto drivers claimed the fear of the theft of a copy of their permit stops them from displaying it, others feel they don’t need to follow the norm as they offer sharean-auto services.
“We only ply for a short distance. If someone needs to find us, they can come here to the stand,” said an auto driver outside Andheri (East) railway station.
The share services at Andheri (East) stop after 9pm. “We are cautious at night and prefer to go by meter after 9pm, as we do not want women to travel with strangers at that hour,” said Anil Trivedi, another driver.
Pratap Dighavkar, deputy commissioner of police, wester n suburbs, traffic, said, “Verification of auto drivers is the responsibility of the RTO. It is to be carried out when they apply for a badge or a licence.”
Moreover, there is no way to keep an eye on drivers plying without a licence or other valid documents, unless they are caught for a violation, which the transport department claims is not possible always owing to staff shortage.
“The transport department has 110 people in flying squads across the state to keep a tab on violations by drivers and permit holders, whereas the traffic police have enough manpower to tackle the issue efficiently,” said a senior transport officer, requesting anonymity.