Auto rickshaw drivers plying between Kurla and Lokmanya Tilak Terminus (LTT), formerly known as Kurla Terminus, have devised a new way of extorting money from unsuspecting passengers.
On Sunday, Mehboob, a passenger, took a share auto from Kurla (East) to reach LTT, to catch the Dnyaneshwari Express to Kolkata that departs from LTT at 6 pm. On reaching LTT, the driver demanded Rs 80. When Mehboob refused, the driver beat him with a wooden stick. He also looted Rs 620 from Mehboob’s wallet, and fled.
This is not just a one-off case. The share auto rickshaw stand outside Kurla station is known to cheat and harass passengers. At Kurla, these passengers entice passengers by offering to take them to LTT for Rs 10 per head, the officially designated amount. But once they reach LTT, they force passengers to pay up Rs 50.
When anyone refuses, they are threatened with police action. To avoid the hassles of a police station, passengers, who are in a hurry to catch the train, end up paying five times the original amount. If anyone gives a Rs 500 note, the drivers only returns Rs 50, claiming that they had been given only Rs 100, and not Rs 500.
Recalling the hellish ride to LTT, Mehboob said, “We were four friends who took a share rickshaw to LTT. The driver was shouting ‘Dus rupaiye seat, dus rupaiye seat’ (Rs 10 per person).” So at LTT, for four persons, I paid him Rs 40. But the driver demanded Rs 40 per person.”
The driver gave an incredulous explanation for asking the high amount. He ‘explained’ that since he had shouted “dus rupaiye seat” four times, it amounted to Rs 40 per person. “When I refused to pay up, he beat me with a wooden stick and stole my money.”
After the ordeal, Mehboob reached the Nehru Nagar police station to lodge a complaint. But the officials there, instead of registering a complaint, asked him to not to waste time.
“While my three friends waited at LTT with our luggage, I went to Nehru Nagar police station to file a complaint. But, the senior inspector there was not ready to register my complaint,” added Mehboob.
After a friend spoke to Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) of Zone VI Lakhmi Gautam, who intervened, Senior Inspector Suresh Bhavar called him inside his cabin. “He told me to catch the train before it left, instead of wasting time at the police station, even though I was ready to catch another train. I could not even note down the licence plate number,” said a dejected Mehboob.
Locals allege that many passengers are fleeced using a similar modus operandi. The drivers mainly target non-residents who are largely unaware about the city. Residents of the area say that the police are involved. “This happens with the active connivance of police officials, as they receive a cut from these rogue drivers.
Passengers always face problem at LTT. The drivers take advantage of passengers who are in a hurry to catch their long-distance trains at LTT,” said a local. When MiD DAY contacted DCP Lakhmi Gautam, he said he was in a meeting. Additional Commissioner of Police (east region) Quaiser Khalid said he had no idea about the case, but would check on the same.