With commuters complaining of auto wallahs fleecing them during the Bandra fair, MiD DAY's Maleeva Rebello decides to hire one to Mount Mary Steps, only to realise how true the claim is
If you are on your way from Bandra station to Mount Mary's basilica, the rickshaw drivers will charge you anything between Rs 60 and Rs 100 for the trip.
Though the meter would read Rs 35 at the most, they will quote rates at will and expect you to comply. They know you don't have many convenient options.
Not fair: No autorickshaw driver was willing to ferry us to Mount Mary.
They argued that it did not suit their pockets to get stuck in traffic for a
low fare. PICS/PRADEEP DHIVAR
Deciding to see how big the shakedown for commuters is, this reporter, rather than taking a bus (no 214 that directly goes to Mount Mary steps) to the foot of the Mount, flagged a three-wheeler to the basilica around 1:30 pm.
No rickshaw was ready to go by meter. Outside Bandra station was a large crowd with no concept of a queue, something that existed until before the fair.
People were jumping on to the first rickshaw they saw, and drivers were spoilt for choice. But not one of them agreed to go to Mount Mary's, saying that I should go near the station's booking counter to get a rickshaw to the Steps.
It's a fair thing
When I reached the place they directed me to, a group of rickshaw drivers asked for Rs 60 for the trip. "Bandra fair is on only for four more days. Let us get some benefits as well. The fare is Rs 60 to the steps and
Rs 75 to Bandstand." Another rickshaw driver said, "The traffic is too much to bear. We go there only if people agree to pay Rs 60 or more. Who wants to get stuck in a jam without any profits?"
I paid Rs 60. Shenni Khan, a resident of Kranti apartments on Mount Mary road who has a pass to drive through the fair - a courtesy extended by the police so as not to inconvenience residents -- was accompanying me. Without the pass, vehicles are only allowed till Mehboob studio during the eight-day fair.
At our destination, the driver said, "As the fair progresses, we even charge Rs 300. People willingly pay up. Even though buses have increased, rickshaws are more convenient. We make big profits during this time. Once the fair ends, it will be back to Rs 21-24, as per the meter."
On my way back I took another rickshaw from near Rebello grounds, Mount Mary Steps, to the station. The driver asked for Rs 10 per person -- "It is on a sharing basis," the driver offered helpfully.
At the station, the driver said, "I make between Rs 700 and Rs 1,500 in the Bandra area from 9 am to 9 pm every day. During the fair, I make between Rs 2,000 and Rs 5,000 a day. I love this time of the year."
The rickshaw rate racket is surprising, considering that police protection has been upped in Bandra. There are cops positioned near the place from where these rickshaws operate. But sadly, devotees on their way to Mount Mary's are being taken for a ride every time
When I called Deputy Commissioner of Police (Traffic) Nandkumar Chougule and informed him of the amount I had to pay to the Mount and back, he said, "I was not aware of this. But I will inform the officials concerned and they will look into the matter. Action will be taken."
Rs 60 for going to Mount Mary's is too much. But I have no choice; I have a back problem and cannot travel by bus. The rickshaws are not ready to go by meter.
-- Belinda Gomes (30), Mulund
I came with my college friends to visit the Mount. The three of us decided to take a rickshaw, and though Rs 60 is a lot, we don't have the patience to wait for buses.
-- Kyle Lewis (18), Ghatkopar
Last year when we came on a Sunday, the rickshaw drivers charged us Rs 150 up to the mount. So I decided to come with my family on a weekday. Still, Rs 60 is way more that the meter fare, which is less than Rs 40.
-- Catherine D'Souza (54) Santacruz