'Cops take Rs 3 lakh to look the other way'

Accusing the police officials of being hand in glove with agents and taxi owners, who operate illegal taxi service near station chowk, sources in the Pune-Mumbai-Pune and Mumbai-Pune-Mumbai Taxi Associations claimed the agents were paying the officials a hafta of Rs 3 lakh a month to run their business uninterruptedly.

They claimed that about 500 illegal vehicles were offering services to commuters at legal taxi stands on a daily basis. Investigation done by this correspondent into the claims made by the sources revealed that Railway Parcel office gate, Swami Samarth temple, Gandhi Putala parking, Samrat Hotel lane, Pune station police chowky and Station post office were the hotspots of illegal taxi services.

In full swing: Some of the llegal taxis parked near station chowk yesterday. Pic/Krunal Gosavi

It was observed that during morning peak hours over 100 agents tried convincing commuters — at the above mentioned spots — to choose their services over the legal ones. Also, nearly 50 illegal taxis were seen parked at the six spots. Surprisingly, the agents even managed to use Pune Municipal Corporation’s multi-storeyed parking lot for their vested interest.

Doing well: Some of the illegal taxis parked at legal taxi booth near station chowk. Pic/Krunal Gosavi

One of the sources said, “They are doing their business right outside the police chowky. All police officials are in collusion with the illegal cab owners because they get hafta regularly. Now, the monthly hafta of officials from the Bund Garden police station has become Rs 3 lakh rupees.”

Sources said while the official Pune-Mumbai taxies charge Rs 380 per seat and MSRTC bus ticket ranges anywhere between Rs 180 to Rs 400, the illegal cab owners charge Rs 300 Rs for small cars like Indica and Rs 200 Rs for Jeep or SUVs, and assure the commuters that they will take them to Mumbai in three hours.

They said the lure of paying less money and less travel time attracts the working class to travel by these illegal vehicles. ¬†“Most of the cabs don’t have insurance or fitness certificates. While people prefer travelling cheap, they never consider the risk involved due to bad condition of vehicle and overspeeding,” said Sandeep Nalwade, director of Pune-Mumbai-Pune Taxi Association.

“We have complained to police officials and officials at D P Road ward office on numerous occasions. Though they take action, illegal taxi services resume within two to three days. Several cabs are using PMC’s parking area. The PMC demands Rs 36,000 for parking legal Pune-Mumbai taxis, but does not take action against these illegal taxis.”

D P Road Ward Officer Sandeep Dhole said the office did not receive any complaint regarding the issue. He said, “We will look into the issue and take necessary action”.

Commenting on the issue, Police Inspector (Crime) S B Nikam of the Bund Garden police station said, “Officials from the traffic police department should look into the matter, as the issue doesn’t fall under our purview. Since we haven’t received any complaint from the taxi associations, there is no question of taking any action.”

Pravinsinh Pardeshi, spokesperson from PMPML, said, “Our buses get stuck due to these haphazardly parked illegal cabs at roadside and near bus stops. A few days ago, we appointed volunteers to control the traffic. The agents threaten the volunteers and bus drivers.”¬†

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