MiD DAY discovers that autos charge Rs 120 for a 7-km ride from Andheri's auto stand; driver says union, cops get their share
After an alert passenger, Hunny Dastur, approached MiD DAY and disclosed how she and other fellow passengers at Andheri Station (W) were being fleeced by errant share-rickshaw drivers we decided to verify her claims.
Our reporter entering the share auto at Andheri Station
During investigation, several shocking facts were unearthed, the prominent one being the involvement of the authorities in the racket. Here's the first person account. To know more, read on.
When I walked out of Andheri Station at 4 pm yesterday, an auto driver at the exit point, was asking passengers whether they were interested in sharing a ride till Infiniti Mall and destinations en route.
After boarding the auto when I asked him about the charges, he said, "It's fixed, Rs 40 per seat for a drop till Infiniti Mall."
Just when the driver was about to start the engine, after all the three seats were occupied, suddenly a man came running towards the vehicle and stood besides it. On noticing him, the driver promptly handed over Rs 50, and we embarked on our journey.
Soon, I struck a conversation with the driver S.M. Parekh, and after observing that he was comfortable replying to my queries, I asked him for the reason behind such exorbitant charges. Replying to my query, he answered, "Madam, you are lucky. If you were supposed to take a rickshaw during rush hours, charges are Rs 50 per seat.
All the three passengers paid Rs 40 each on getting off near Infiniti Mall.
The driver pocketed the Rs 120 and headed back to the stand
This is because during peak hours travellers outnumber rickshaws, which leads to scarcity of the vehicles."
"When all those rickshaws that ply by meter are full, the passengers who are in a hurry to reach their destinations, have no option but to travel via share autos," he added.
'There are various cuts'
When I asked him how much does he make in a day by charging such exorbitant fares, he didn't look too happy. He said, "We don't earn a bomb. We have to give cuts to various parties."
On questioning, who these parties were, he became sceptical. However, after initial hesitation, he spilled the beans. "Did you see that man, whom I gave Rs 50 before our journey commenced? He was from our union. For every Rs.120 I make for a ride till Infiniti Mall, I pay Rs 50, which is further passed on to the higher authorities."
When I asked him, who these 'higher authorities' were, the driver laughed and said, "The men in uniform. We have to keep everybody happy, otherwise they create obstacles for us."
He further added, "As a rule, we are supposed to pay the union's cut beforehand, because they fear that we might not comeback to give them their share. Also, the cut is based on the number of passengers. If we are plying more than three passengers, the amount increases."
When I asked don't the passengers object and traffic cops fine him for overloading the auto, he said, "During peak hours, people don't object because they are in a hurry and don't want to waste time waiting for an auto that is ready to ply by meter. Besides, even the traffic cops say nothing, as they get their share at the end of the day."
A co-passenger, who was angry with the driver for charging more, lashed out at him. "It's unfair of you to fleece the helpless passengers for your personal benefit."
To this, the driver politely replied, "What can we do sir? After all, even we have to earn our livelihood. Moreover, inflation is making matters worse. We are helpless."
Finally, I reached Infinti Mall. Each of the three passengers, including me gave the driver Rs 40 each. He happily counted the money (Rs 120), pocketed it and went about his daily chores.