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Bleak future for commuters

We did it for 84 days -- stalked auto-rickshaw drivers, that is. Our reporters spent hours at 14 locations across the city, followed by a team of photographers, to track the nightmare that Mumbai's commuters confront daily.

We were helped by traffic constables who stood beside us and did their best to make errant drivers toe the line. Eventually, after a three-month campaign, 1,062 drivers were fined for a number of violations, dominant among them being their refusal to ply.

There were all kinds of excuses thrown at us and the police. Some protested, others threatened our reporters with violence, and one driver decided to sue the police for what he claimed was his right to refuse any passenger. Through it all, we kept hearing the same litany of complaints from readers: How their inability to find a rickshaw made their already difficult commute so much harder to manage.

The jury is out on whether or not rickshaws and taxis can do as they please. There are humanitarian concerns to be addressed, of course, including the need for planned spaces where drivers can rest. At the same time, the government needs to do more to make sure the law isn't flouted with the brazenness we are now accustomed to. 

If local trains are over-crowded and buses slow on account of dug up roads, how is the common man supposed to travel? More importantly, is there nothing that can be done to make sure at least senior citizens, women and children are guaranteed access to a hired vehicle?

The state government routinely issues proclamations on how our city is on its way to becoming the next Shanghai or Hong Kong. Whether or not that happens, we hope travelling across this fabulous new promised city of ours becomes a little easier to manage.

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