I know how it feels to be refused by autos: John

Auto driver refuses to ply actor John Abraham from his home to a nearby hotel

It doesn't matter whether you are a star or a commoner; one cannot escape refusals from the city's autorickshaw drivers. And their latest victim was Bollywood actor John Abraham. He was refused a fare from his residence at Bandstand to Taj Lands End.

When John asked the reason for refusal, auto driver A Sharma said that it was an extremely short distance fare and could be easily covered on foot. "I prefer plying a short distance fare only when I have time," said Sharma.

Video: John Abraham takes on auto drivers

So what if you are a star: MiD DAY Meter Down Campaign brand
ambassador John Abraham was refused a short distance fare from his
Bandstand residence to Taj Lands End. pics/Sunil Tiwari

Thanking MiD DAY and Mumbai Traffic Police, John Abraham, who was the face of MiD DAY's Meter Down campaign since its inception on October 12, 2011, said, "Being brought up in a middle-class family, I have commuted via rickshaws, buses and trains. So I know the kind of problems commuters face when autos refuse to ply," said John.

He further stated that on several occasions when his mother -- who has difficulty in walking due to a knee ailment -- is refused by an auto to go to the nearby market he has to use his celebrity status to get the job done. Meanwhile, the traffic officials deployed at Bandstand, urged people to come forward and complain against those errant auto and taxi drivers who refuse fares.

Commenting on the refusals faced by commuters, Additional Commissioner of Police (Traffic) Brijesh Singh, said, "If a meter is kept on hire, then the commuters must directly board the vehicle. If the commuters follow this and stop asking the drivers before boarding their auto or taxi, the problem of refusal will not arise."

Number please! Senior Traffic Inspector Rajendra Chavan gives the
traffic police helpline number to John Abraham

Remember this
>> If an auto meter is kept on hire, it implies that the driver is ready to ply you irrespective of your destination. If the meter is half-down and yet the driver stops by to ask you for a fare, he has to ply whether it's a short or a long distance fare. If he still snubs you, he can be booked for refusal
>> If the driver refuses to ply you citing that his vehicle is running low on gas, then check the gas meter to verify his claims

>> In case of refusal, call up the traffic police helpline: 24937755 and report the location of the rickshaw/taxi and the vehicle registration number

In the last part of our campaign, we look back at how citizens got back at errant auto drivers


Nivedita Dargalkar, Anamika More, Vaishali Chandra and photographers have worked
on this campaign

For 84 days, MiD DAY with the help of Mumbai Traffic Police nabbed rogue auto drivers from 14 different locations in Western and Eastern suburbs. In all, 1,062 drivers were booked for refusal and soliciting passengers during the Meter Down Campaign that lasted for almost three months (Oct 12, 2011 to Jan 17, 2012).

'A crucial Campaign'
According to R Chavan, senior traffic police inspector, Bandra (W), "Refusals by auto drivers is a big nuisance. We can only post constables at selected junctions where the footfall is more. Hence such campaigns play a big role."

"Fighting refusals by auto drivers should be a collective effort, rather than just targeting the drivers. The commuters, government and auto unions should come together to find a solution. Only then the problem can be rectified," said auto union leader Shashank Rao.

Unwilling people
Other than the myriad refusals commuters were subjected to, it was also observed that seldom the passengers approached the on-duty traffic cops to register their grievances.

Stating that they didn't wish to court unwanted problems and that lodging a compliant was waste of their precious time, commuters refused to register complaints against arrogant drivers who mistreated them.

Commuters speak
Bhakti Bhanushali, a college student said, "I never argue with the auto drivers, because, it just creates a scene in front of the public and no one supports you. Hence, it's better to hire another auto and save your time and energy."

Pratish Dama, a chartered accountant, said, "Earlier people would let off errant drivers thinking that taking up his case was a waste of time. However, the attitudes are changing. Besides, the RTO must highlight the helpline number. This will surely bring down the cases of refusals, as a snubbed passenger can immediately lodge his complaint against the driver."

Defiant: An auto driver caught for refusing to ply gets into an argument
with the reporter and the traffic constable. pic/Mahesh Chafe

Fill the form
Apart for starting the helpline, Mumbai Traffic Police have now made complaint forms available across its chowkies, which passengers can fill with details such as: vehicle number, date, time and location of their refusal (from and to), personal details and contact number.

"These forms will be directly despatched to the RTO, who will then take appropriate action against the driver when he visits the office for vehicle or license-related work," added Chavan.

Did you know?
As per Section 22 (d) 178 (3) (b) of the Motor Vehicles Act, a rickshaw driver cannot refuse to ply you

Number of drivers booked during the campaign

Number of drivers booked at Borivli (Highest for Western suburbs)

Number of drivers booked at Ghatkopar (Highest for Eastern suburbs)

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