Tourist vehicles, including buses and cabs, operating illegally in the city without up-to-date tourist tax, picking up passengers at random stops, overloading beyond stipulated capacity, besides other traffic offences, has got the city’s traffic police fuming.
The reason being that these operators and drivers are exempt from Department Action (DP), which entails suspension of licence, in case of traffic offences committed under the Motor Vehicle Act 1998. Commercial tourist vehicles come under the ‘agreed sum’ provision and attract a fine and not suspension of licence in case of a traffic offence.
Shielded lot: A spot outside Pune station near the PMC multi-stored parking where around 500 tourist cabs operate illegally each day. Pic/Krunal Gosavi
While private vehicle owners, including auto rickshaws are entitled to pay a fine and have their licences and permits temporarily suspended according to severity of offence, commercial tourist vehicles get away with a fine of between Rs 600 and 800.
This fact came to the fore after the traffic police sent 2,000 proposals for suspension of licenses and permits of commercial vehicles, but all RTO did was collect fines and let the cases go as these operators came under the provision. Traffic officials feel there is urgent need for an amendment of the rules and licence and permit suspension would act as a deterrent for tourist vehicles committing offences in future.
According to the traffic officials, after getting away with a meagre fine, these operators and drivers continue to ignore rules and ferry passengers beyond the permitted limit, make random stops thereby causing traffic snarls, and many of them do not even have fitness certificates.
Department Action is initiated in case of traffic offences under the Motor Vehicle Act, including rash driving, over speeding, verbal abuse against commuters, meter tampering and several others. A fine and suspension of licence applies to offenders other than tourist taxies and buses. The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) brought about the ‘agreed sum’ provision, which has proved to be a loophole, which commercial tourist vehicles are allegedly exploiting.
“We take regular action against these illegal tourist vehicles and send licences to the RTO for suspension. But there is no of action and these drivers get their licence back after paying a nominal fine in the RTO. It is like routine activity for these cab owners. Suspension of license or permit for 10 days to a month could act as a deterrent as they would not be able to function during this period. There is need of amendment in the provision of ‘agreed sum’,” said Mahadev Gawade, police inspector Traffic Planning.
Baba Shinde, former member of RTA, said, “Moreover, STA has not revised fine structure in the last five years. Currently, the fine for auto rickshaws is Rs 300 and Rs 500 for buses, which is not appropriate. In case of tourist cabs and buses, DA action is nil. We had sent a proposal in March 2008 demanding amendment in the Motor Vehicle Act to make the rules more stringent.
STA has made alterations to other provisions, but remained passive about ‘agreed sum’.” Deputy RTO Sanjay Dhaygude said, “We are not implementing rules specified by RTA. It is RTA’s decision whether to collect a fine or suspend licences. In some cases, both action are applicable.”
“As per the Motor Vehicle Act, tourist vehicles are not permitted to pick up passengers from random spots between point of origin and destination. Currently, tourist buses stop at Paud Road, Shaniwarwada, Viman Nagar, Aundh and other spots, thereby creating traffic congestion. Only MSRTC buses are permitted to stop for passengers and there are authorised spots for these vehicles,” said Mahadev Gawade, PI, Traffic Planning.
Action so far
Between April 1, 2012 and November 30, 2012
RTO against 549
Fine collected in court:
Tourist tax fine:
RTO action against 1,322 tourist cabs
Fines paid in court:
Tourist tax fine:
No licence suspended in any case