Autos refuse short distance fares from the newly constructed share-an-auto stand; ferry passengers only on a specific route, and overcharge them
When the cat's away, the mice will play. And in the absence of RTO officials at the recently inaugurated auto-share stand at Malad station, auto driver ran a riot. Fleecing, refusing to ply short distances and cold-shouldering commuters, errant auto drivers harassed passengers all day. To add to that, drivers only ferried commuters travelling to Evershine Nagar and en route destinations.
Reined in: A traffic constable penalising an errant auto driver for
refusing to ply a passenger. PIC/Mahesh Chafe
Speaking to MiD DAY, Sahil Deshpande, a stranded commuter, whose office is at Interface, said, "I have an interview scheduled and I am afraid I'll be late for it. While the rickshaw drivers plying from the new stand are refusing to ferry us, those going by meters are snubbing short distance fares as usual. The RTO officials should have been present at the spot to help passengers." An angry Poorvi Seth, who works near D-Mart on Malad Link Road, stated, "Passengers are stranded at the station in order to find a rickshaw that is ready to ply them. On the other hand, there are so many empty rickshaws standing at the new stand, but still they are refusing to ferry us and want to chose their destination."
Echoing her views, Neha Mankodia said, "With no one to keep a watch over rickshaws plying from the new stand, the stranded passengers were left at the mercy of the errant drivers. What should the passengers going to Mindspace and Interface do? Most of the crowd going to these destinations are office-goers and are in a hurry to reach on time."
Officer to rescue
Fed up of being constantly refused, infuriated commuters then approached the traffic cops stationed outside the railway station asking them to rein in the arrogant rickshaw drivers. Following their complaints, API Ashok Sawant of Malad traffic police station, took charge of the situation and forced the reluctant drivers to ferry commuters to D-Mart.
Sawant said, "The rickshaw drivers should be considerate. They shouldn't keep so many passengers waiting, especially during peak hours."
It was only after Sawant's intervention, did the unruly drivers fell in line and started ferrying passengers to their destinations without throwing tantrums. However, this reprieve was short-lived, as the rogue drivers repeated their behaviour in the evening too, refusing to ply passengers other than those wanting to go to Evershine Nagar.
Though the rickshaw drivers claimed that they had acquired permission from the RTO to set up a stand outside Malad station, there were no proper signboards installed at the spot giving details about the route and charges per seat. Besides, the drivers themselves lacked documents certifying them to ply their autos from the stand.
When asked for documents, driver Santosh Bhalekar said, "Our union leader, who belongs to a certain political party had acquired permission to set up this stand four days ago. The documents are at his office in Malwani." When inquired about the charges, Bhalekar added, "Though the RTO has permitted us to charge Rs 8.50 per seat, were are charging Rs 10 per passenger."
He added, "We over-charge because we have to come empty from Evershine Nagar. Moreover, in today's times of inflation, we are not earning enough to even meet our daily expenses."