Swindling people in the name of “ambulance service”, a large group of taxi drivers have modified their commercial vehicles to ambulances to transport patients and their attendants from Dayanand Medical College and Hospital (DMCH) to their native villages, towns and cities.
The hospital being a prime medical institution of north India has people coming not only from Punjab but from various states, including Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and Rajasthan, and it is not possible for it to provide ambulance services to all.
As a result, a nexus has come up between the taxi owners, traffic cops and the staff at district transport officer’s (DTO) office over the past two decades, which is apparent from the fact that the taxi drivers not only blatantly modify their commercial vehicles against the rules of the Motor Vehicle Act but also use blue and orange “beacons” to make them look credible.
Each vehicle has “ambulance” painted on them, but in reality the drivers are charging Rs 22-25 per km from the patients discharged from the hospital, even as the fare for an AC taxi is much lesser. Right from old Maruti Omnis to Chevrolet Tavera, Toyota Qualis and Innova are being used.
Worse, these so-called “ambulances” are haphazardly parked on the sides of the road outside the hospital that leads to traffic chaos.
Where on the one side, people coming to the hospital are not allowed to park their vehicles on the road outside DMCH, these taxi owners fearlessly park their modified vehicles there.
The vehicles registered as ambulances cannot be run as taxis, as they are exempted from paying commercial taxes.
Sanjay, an employee at a drug store outside DMCH, alleged, “The cops are hand in glove with these taxi drivers, and they take money from them on monthly basis. Hence, the menace continues unabated. The taxi drivers are goons and intimidate people who try to raise voice against them.”
When contacted, district transport officer (DTO) Ashwani Kumar Garg expressed ignorance over the issue, adding, “I will immediately put someone on the job and take appropriate action.”