On December 14, the state Transport department and Regional Transport Offices (RTO) urged Mumbaikars to get proactive, call and complain on the toll-free helpline number 1800-22-0110 from Sunday, if they found auto rickshaws or taxis plying without recalibrated electronic meters.
Ironically, commuters who have eagerly called the number to give vent to their angst are now busy launching on tirades against the helpline itself, which is unreachable most of the time. When MiD DAY called up the number yesterday, only to hear a recorded message, which droned: ‘Due to faulty line, your call cannot be completed at present’. When we called again in the evening, it kept ringing but nobody picked up.
Only last week, the Bombay High Court came down heavily on the state government for the protracted delay over the recalibration of e-meters in autos and taxis. This helpline was thrown open to trace and penalise auto rickshaws, taxi drivers and permit holders who have breached the December 15 deadline for recalibration of e-meters. Commuters were asked to note the vehicle’s licence plate number and register the complaint on the toll-free helpline, in the event that they found an e-meter which had not been recalibrated.
“Very often, this toll free helpline is not reachable or functioning. We have also informed the authorities about it,” said Shirish Deshpande of Mumbai Grahak Panchayat.
Sources in the RTO accepted that they have received a slew of complaints about the toll-free helpline, and attributed the failure to the fact that many people are using the line. The same number is used to receive complaints against fast-reading tampered meters and rude behaviour from drivers. “It is true the helpline number isn’t reachable from select mobile numbers, but it is the heavy load of complaints that jams the line,” explained an RTO official on condition of anonymity.
According to the official notice issued by the transport department, the deadline for recalibration of e-meters in autos and taxis in keeping with the new tariff was December 15. After recalibration, e-meters in taxis should display Rs 19 instead of Rs 17 as basic fare. Meters in autos should show Rs 15 instead of Rs 12. Permit holders for taxis and autos having mechanical meters should have them recalibrated by January 31.
On the lookout
Officials at all the three RTOs in Andheri, Tardeo and Wadala have formed squads to nab vehicles plying without updated meters. Yesterday, officials of the Andheri RTO caught four autos plying with e-meters that weren’t updated. Wadala RTO nabbed three autos and the Tardeo RTO caught 26 taxis. While Andheri and Wadala RTOs have confiscated the papers of the vehicles, Tardeo RTO officials claim that they have confiscated the vehicles and kept them in their premises. “We either remove the non-recalibrated e-meter or confiscate the vehicle. From Monday, we will intensify the drive against them,” said another RTO official. They have also levied fines up to Rs 700 and processed a suspension of licence for a maximum of seven days, as per the recent directive of the Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Transport Authority (MMRTA).
Of the 1.5 lakh autos and taxis plying on the city’s roads, around 83,000 are yet to have their meters recalibrated according to the hiked fares. Of these, 13,000 are fitted with e-meters, and another 70,000 have mechanical meters. The Bombay High Court has asked the Transport department to file a status report by December 20.
Originally, the state department had set November 24 as the deadline for recalibration of e-meters. After most of the vehicles failed to meet the deadline, it was extended.
Transport Commissioner VN More said, “When we are appealing to the public to call on this helpline, it needs to be in working condition. I will check in case of any fault. Also at times due to heavy rush, it remains unreachable. People can also email the respective RTOs.”
Autos and taxis caught on Dec 16 for non-recalibration of e-meters:
Andheri RTO: 4 autos
Tardeo RTO: 26 taxis
Wadala RTO: 3 autos
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Tardeo RTO: email@example.com
Andheri RTO: firstname.lastname@example.org
Wadala RTO: email@example.com