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Taking autorickshaw in Mumbai? Beware, drivers use hidden button to rig meter, fleece you

Mumbai traffic police confirmed that they had seized the autorickshaw

mumbai Updated: Feb 16, 2018 10:39 IST
Kailash Korde
Kailash Korde
Hindustan Times
autorickshaw,rigging meters,Mumbai commute
Some autorickshaw drivers put buttons that are hidden near the steering handle that speed up the meter, and in turn hike the fares.(HT PHOTO)

If you are one of those who often wonder why you have to pay so much for an autorickshaw ride to a shorter distance, here’s the answer, with evidence to back it. Some autorickshaw drivers put buttons that are hidden near the steering handle that speed up the meter, and in turn hike the fares.

The modus operandi came to light thanks to an alert civil engineer from Jogeshwari, Sachin Khetale, 34. While returning from his office in Thane on Tuesday night, Khetale was asked to pay an exorbitant fare.

“For the past few days, I have been taking an autorickshaw from Kapurbawadi in Thane to Jogeshwari. The fare, according to the meter, is usually Rs270 to Rs280. If there is traffic, it goes up to Rs300. But, when the meter showed Rs352, I suspected it was rigged,” said Khetale, who works at a private firm in Thane.

Khetale said he became suspicious when the fare showed Rs140 at Kanjurmarg, as opposed to the usual Rs100. “I saw a hidden red button below the steering wheel, which the driver kept pressing at regular intervals. It beeped each time it was pressed,” he said.

After reaching Jogeshwari, Khetale called his friend, Shivaji Khairnar, a member of NGO Janata Jagruti Manch, for help. Khairnar said the driver confessed he had tampered the meter, when they warned him to put out his act on social media.

“Before we could take him to the police station, the driver fled, leaving the vehicle behind. He, however, returned after a while and started requesting us to let him go. He told us around 100 autorickshaws in Bhandup had rigged meters. We took the video of the set-up and also recorded his confession in front of the police,” said Khairnar.

Khairnar said that they first contacted Jogeshwari police for complaint, but the senior officer there asked them to contact the Jogeshwari traffic division, which then took their complaint and detained the auto. There too, the auto driver confessed to rigging the meter.

Khairnar and Khetale put out a photograph of the auto, with a warning for their friends, on social media. The message soon went viral.

The Jogeshwari traffic police confirmed they got the autorickshaw registration number (MH03 BT6161). An officer, requesting anonymity said the driver had no documents in his possession. His licence was confiscated by the Navi Mumbai police a year ago and he had been carrying a photocopy of it since.

“We have written to the Wadala regional transport office (RTO), asking officials to verify if the auto was registered. We will take action against the driver only after receiving this information,” he said.

Purushottam Nikam, regional transport officer of Wadala RTO, where the auto rickshaw was registered, said they have given a show-cause notice to the auto owner, Nitin Kumar Narale, a resident of Bhandup Tembhipada and asked him to come to the RTO on February 20 to register his statement.

Another RTO official, who is not authorised to speak to the media, said Narale had won the permit in the 2014 autorickshaw permit lottery. “For this offence, his licence is likely to be suspended for at least a month,” the official said.

First Published: Feb 15, 2018 16:54 IST