The president of the Rickshaw Panchayat, Baba Adhav, recently announced that senior citizens can dial specific mobile phone numbers and connect to drivers at auto rickshaw stands and have a vehicle pick them up at their homes.
In reality, these contact numbers have not been specified or displayed at any rickshaw stand, and members of various other auto rickshaw unions claim that this offer is merely a political stunt. Adhav said this service began several years ago, but most people are not using it because auto rickshaw drivers at these stands tamper with meters to make an extra buck.
A visit to auto rickshaws stands located at Deccan, Prabhat Road, Shaniwar peth, D P Road and Karve putala, Kothrud, Camp and Pune Station revealed that no such numbers are displayed on the boards. And only the contact numbers of the RTO and traffic police are available.
“Actually, this system for senior citizen is not in existence. To grab people’s attention, Baba Adhav only makes announcements. In reality, it is mostly the auto rickshaw drivers at the Panchayat stand who refuse to ply. Drivers at the Panchayat stand in Karve Nagar near Cummins College refused to ferry a pregnant woman two days ago. Such incidents are increasing and there is no system to curb them,” said the senior president of an auto rickshaw union, on condition of anonymity.
The traffic police are not aware of this scheme and Vishwas Pandhare, DCP traffic, said, “We have not heard about the dial-an-auto scheme started by the Rickshaw Panchayat. There has been no official registration of this system.”
Responding to why contact numbers have not been displayed at the stands, Adhav said, “It is a sort of personal or mutual system between senior citizens and auto rickshaw drivers. If the numbers are not specified on the board, senior citizens can collect the numbers of auto rickshaw drivers and call them when required.”
Vishwas Sahastrabudhe, activist, Sajag Nagrik Manch said that the system mentioned by Adhav could carry some risks.
“There is no such system for senior citizens. Before starting any system, auto rickshaw unions should consult the regional transportation office and the city traffic police. It can be risky to call an unknown auto rickshaw driver. Drivers from the stands refuse to ply and it is a major problem for people. Unions are just making such announcements to misguide commuters,” Sahastrabudhe said.