A majority of complaints filed by citizens against autorickshaw drivers are about drivers refusing to ply short distances.
On the second day of HT’s campaign against errant autorickshaw drivers, two reporters decided to investigate the issue.
Our reporters sought help from the traffic police officials at Goregaon and Khar traffic outposts, the two places selected as our case studies.
The traffic officials promptly extended their support. While senior inspector Vinayak Mule of the Goregaon traffic police directed three constables – H Breed, Namdev Jadhav and Jayant Kolte – to help our reporters, inspector Minakshi Patil of Khar traffic outpost provided them with constables S Shinde, Somnath Nhavkar and Baban Dhoble for assistance.
We found several auto drivers at Khar and Goregaon refusing to ply the reporters.
The traffic constables at all the four spots impounded the licences of the auto drivers and asked them to appear before the court on a specific date.
The constables then submitted the licences to their respective traffic outposts, which will be sent to the joint commissioner of police for traffic’s office on Saturday.The licences will then be sent to court.
When the driver appears before the court, the court will decide upon the kind of fine to be imposed and the period for which the licence will be impounded.
The drivers are usually charged a fine of Rs 100 and can face a suspension of their license for up to six months.
'He refused to drop me to rly station'
I had been waiting for an autorickshaw near the Oberoi mall for several minutes.
My intention was to check how many drivers would refuse to ply the distance. While several drivers moved past me without paying heed to my calls, one of them (MH 02 TA 5823) stopped.
When I asked him if he would go to the railway station, he said a blunt 'no'.
When he was about to leave, I signalled the traffic constables who were accompanying us. The constables asked the driver for his licence and the documents of the vehicle.
However, the 32-year-old auto driver, Mahendra Gupta, a resident of Kandivli, got agitated when I called the traffic cop. He argued that we were 'creating a scene'.
He also got into a heated argument with the policemen claiming that he hadn't refused to ply.
When the policemen questioned a few passers-by present there, they confirmed that Gupta had indeed refused to go to the station.
The constables impounded his licence, gave him a receipt and asked him to appear before the court on a specified date.
'Drivers oblivious to commuters' woes'
Since we had received complaints about auto drivers refusing to ply to Aarey Colony from the spot, I decided to use the same destination for a trial.
It had started to rain by the time I reached the Dindoshi bus depot to commence with the assignment.
However, auto drivers were oblivious to the plight of commuters getting drenched, waiting for any rickshaw to ply them to their destinations.
One rickshaw (MH 02 SA 9147) stopped and I asked him if he would take me to the Aarey signal.
He pondered over it for a few seconds before saying no and speeding away.
But a few metres away were the traffic constables, waiting for my signal. They quickly hailed him down and asked him to stop. They then confronted him for refusing the fare.
The driver, Ramayan Yadav, 37, a resident of Walbhat Road in Goregaon (West), admitted that he had refused to ply the short distance.
Following his admission, the traffic constables impounded his licence.
'He refused 3 passengers before me'
Although 30-year-old autorickshaw driver ( MH 02 UA 8634) Ashokkumar Shahu was eventually booked for fare refusal by constables of the Khar traffic outpost, he was only one of the several auto drivers who bothered to pay heed to commuters.
I could see him refusing at least three customers in a line by the time he reached me.
When I asked him if he would drop me to Bandra Hill Road, I was not surprised when he refused.
I then called out to traffic constables Somnath Nhavkar and S Shinde (in plain clothes) who booked him for the
Shahu, a resident of DN Nagar, Andheri (West), argued that his shift was getting over and hence he could not ply passengers. This is an excuse usually offered by auto drivers who refuse fares.
But when the traffic constable questioned him why he stopped to inquire with the passenger and why his meter was in the 'for-hire' position, Shahu failed to give them a satisfactory reply.
He quietly handed over his licence to the policeman and peacefully followed his instructions.
'Half-down meters to escape police'
I waited for nearly 45 minutes at SV Road, but I could not get even one auto as most of their meters were turned half-down (half-flagged).
Exasperated, I asked traffic constable Baban Dhoble, who then explained the scenario to me.
"This is the latest tactic adopted by auto drivers in the city. While they keep their meters half-down, they continue to ask passengers where they want to go."
"If the autorickshaw drivers do not wish to ply the short distance, they refuse the fare. This is their way of ensuring that they are not prosecuted for refusing fares since their meter is half-down. It becomes difficult for the traffic police to catch hold of such offenders," he said.
Finally, 34-year-old auto driver Jalam Yadagiri responded to my frantic call. He asked me where I wanted to go.
On hearing my destination, Bandra Hill Road, he sped his vehicle (MH 02 TA 2139) away.
A few metres ahead, he was later caught by constable Dhoble. Yadagiri, a resident of Santa Nagar in Juhu galli, was then booked.