The state transport department has gone ahead and okayed a steep hike in auto and taxi fares, which will take effect from Thursday, but it cannot guarantee Mumbaiites better service as officials said it is not feasible to conduct daily drives and keep errant drivers in check.
Transport commissioner VN More said that each of the three Regional Transport Offices (RTO) in the city have two flying squads each. Every flying squad comprises two RTO officials who, based on specific information, check several pockets in the city for errant drivers.
“Organising special drives every day is not practical. The crackdown by the flying squads is an ongoing process and several drivers have been caught,” More said.
A senior transport official said that the flying squads were not enough. “There are eight officials to look after the whole western and eastern suburbs and there are more than one lakh autos. The staff crunch in the transport department has worsened public grievances.”
More said the department had increased fines to discourage offences such as fare refusals. A month-and-a half ago, for auto fare refusal, the first-time offenders’ fine was raised to Rs1,500 from Rs 200-Rs 300.
“We have taken several measures to ensure that errant drivers are not only punished, but also discouraged from repeating the offence,” said More. “We have instructed the three RTOs that if drivers are found with rigged meters or fake tariff cards, a cheating complaint must be registered at the local police station in addition to action under the Motor Vehicles Act. The RTO does not have investigating powers so the police role becomes important.”
Experts said the transport department needs to ensure the rules are implemented effectively. “Since July, when the order was issued to RTOs, only two complaints have been registered for rigged meters and the permit of only one driver has been revoked. The department needs to be more vigilant,” said Nitin Dossa, president, Western India Automobile Association.
MBA student Abha Gupta, 25, said: “If they are increasing fares, the least they can do is teach the drivers to behave. The authorities should be strict with errant drivers.”