The Kejriwal government wants to take away from the Delhi Police the power to fine autorickshaw drives who refuse to carry passengers, a move that is bound to please his party’s biggest votebank but is likely to put commuters at a disadvantage.
Autorickshaws were a vital part of the Aam Aadmi Party’s Delhi campaign, with posters bearing party slogans ferrying passengers across the city.
According to sources, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal wants to withdraw the Delhi Police’s power to fine auto drivers for refusing to take passengers, go by meter and violating permit laws, including wearing uniform and badge, and give it back to the transport department.
The CM has held several meetings with senior transport department officials to work out the modalities for the change. The final nod would have to come from Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung, who would then decide if the issue should be referred to the Centre, said officials.
Confirming the move, Kejriwal said: “All auto drivers of the city had joined hands with us in our fight against corruption, and we are committed to resolving their issues.” “The transport minister is working out details of what comes under the purview of the transport department and what should essentially remain with the police”.
However, Kejriwal’s move has been resisted by the transport department, which claims it does not have the manpower to take over the job.
Following a heated argument over the issue, transport commissioner Arvind Ray was replaced by Gyanesh Bharti on Monday.
Officials in transport department are of the view that the move could once again inconvenience commuters who often rely on the police when auto drivers overcharge or refuse to go to certain locations.
The transport department had delegated its powers to fine auto drivers to the police following a Supreme Court order a few years ago.
In fact, police have various helpline numbers for passengers to register complaints. In 2013, a total of 1.26 lakh challan were issued to auto drivers for various violations.
The CM said efforts were on to give more personnel to the transport department. “The entire system of penal action against drivers is being simplified and it will be ensured that they are not unnecessarily harassed and penalised,” he said.
The Delhi Police are not aware of the move. “We do not have any information about such a move. If they want to take out power from us, they would have to get an order passed through the L-G,” said Anil Shukla, additional commissioner of police (traffic).
It was an impractical move as transport department didn’t have the manpower to check such violations, another police officer told HT on condition of anonymity.