Around 10,000 autorickshaw drivers protested outside the traffic police office at Vasai demanding action against rickshaw drivers operating without a legal permit.
During the three-hour-long protest, the rickshaw drivers also demanded action against traffic police inspectors who allegedly allowed illegal rickshaw drivers to operate in return for bribe.
The strike was called off only after the traffic police assured that strict action would be taken against traffic policemen who have erred.
Rickshaw drivers from Vasai, Nalasopara, Naigaon, Manikpur and Virar participated in the protest, said the police.
“Out of the total number of rickshaws in these areas, around 50% are operating illegally and a lot of these vehicles are directly or indirectly owned by policemen. Hence, it becomes difficult for legal, hardworking rickshaw drivers to operate in the area,” said a rickshaw driver.
The drivers further said that the traffic policemen take a minimum of Rs50 from illegal rickshaw drivers, making a major chunk of money in a single day. “In this entire bargain, the traffic police and the illegal rickshaw drivers are benefiting while the legal rickshaw drivers lose out on business,” said a rickshaw driver.
Refuting the graft allegations made by the drivers, Suresh Lambhate, police inspector, Vasai traffic police, said, “The allegations are baseless. We get orders from our superiors after which we carry out a crackdown, during which erring rickshaw drivers are fined. While the rickshaw drivers are allowed to ferry only three passengers, they ferry five. When five persons are being ferried the traffic police are bound to intercept and fine the rickshaw driver. That can’t be called bribe.”