Many owners of private vehicles are running illegal city-Mumbai cab services in violation of the State Transportation Act and fleecing passengers. Parked at railways stations and bus stands in the city to pick up passengers, these vehicles are found trespassing on government property.
Such illegal cabs are getting away with it because the traffic police, the Government Railway Police (GRP) and the Regional Transport Office cannot decided who should take action against them.
Corruption may also have a part to play in the thriving illegal cab business, with a regular city-Mumbai traveller saying a driver of an illegal cab once told him that he gave Rs 10,000 per month to the authorities and so was not worried about any action.
“Once while going back to Mumbai from Pune, when we reached the highway, the driver asked us to shift into another car. We paid a whopping Rs 400 for crammed seating in a Scorpio,” Rishi Wadha, a media professional from Mumbai, said. “After we told him we would lodge a police complaint, the driver told me that he was not worried about any RTO officer or traffic police because he was paying Rs 10,000 in bribes every month.”
At the Pune railway station, a bunch of agents are always on the lookout for customers for these illegal cab services. They charge Rs 170 to 200 for a seat to Mumbai, which is hits the business of the legal Pune-Mumbai-Pune taxi service.
“These cabs are running without any travel permit or passing, which is why they can charge lower rates. But these cabs are not at all safe. Recently many accidents occurred due to rash driving of these cabs,” Shaikh Usman, a driver of a legal Pune-Mumbai taxi, said.
A regular passenger, Deodatt Shastri, said: “These agents generally claim that the vehicle will depart in the next 10 minutes and reach Dadar in two-and-half hours. The reality is that they take up a lot of time in the city to pick up passengers and then drive rashly to reach as early as possible. The last time, a driver almost lost control over the vehicle near Khandala.”
K P Ganpat, secretary, Pune-Mumbai taxi association, said: “We have sent written complaints many times, but no action has been taken. There is an understanding between the traffic police and these agents.”
DCP (Traffic) Vishwas Pandhare said: “We have been taking action against these illegal vehicles. In the past few months, we have taken action against 1,329 cabs and collected Rs 24 lakh revenue through this, while sending their registrations to RTO for suspension. But now these vehicles stand on the premises of the railway station near the parcel office, which is under the jurisdiction of the railway police.
We are ready to take action on the railway premises also, but recently, the Government Railway Police clearly told us to not interfere in their jurisdiction. Still, we have communicated to them that they should install barricades at the entrance so that vehicles other than those of railway officials can not trespass into their jurisdiction.”
An official said the illegal cabs did not pay the annual tax and lacked requisite certificates. “Vehicles which are registered as commercial vehicles and are paying yearly passenger tax and are obtaining fitness certificate are considered legal cabs.
These cabs have yellow number plates,” the official said. “These vehicles come under the category of contract carriage, which means they can pick up passengers from one spot and drop them at another spot, for example from Pune to Dadar. These vehicles cannot pick up passengers from different spots like Chinchwad or Lonavla. Many private vehicles with white number plates were in the cab business without a travel permit.”
Pandhare said: “When caught, the drivers of these illegal cabs generally claim that the passengers are their friends or relatives. But we can easily identify the illegal vehicles by asking them whether they know the full name and profession of the passengers.”
Regional Transport Officer Arun Yeola said: “We appeal to people to not travel in these illegal vehicles. In case of an accident, commuters cannot get insurance claim because these cabs are running without any permit. They don’t have a fitness certificate or yearly passing, so the vehicle may not be safe.
Recently, the state government has given the highway police the right to take action against these cabs. Even a constable of the highway police can take action. So, along with them, the traffic police should conduct regular drives against illegal cabs.”
Senior Police Inspector, GRP, Mahendra Rokade said: “The area of parcel office (where the illegal cabs are parked at the station) is not under the jurisdiction of the railway police. The traffic police can take action there. The basic thing is action against these vehicles should be taken on the road by stopping the car, and this should be done by authorities other than us. How can we take action against a vehicle which is just parked at the station area?”