When Manoj Kumar Singh took the last fare of the day in his taxi, he did not anticipate that the four “passengers” would brutally assault him, with the intent to bump him off and make off with his taxi.
Manoj Singh at J J Hospital
Currently grappling to come to terms with the knife gash that blinded him in one eye and almost cost him his life, Singh says, “I don’t deserve this for serving passengers.” But, he doesn’t speak these words. He cannot. His throat has been slashed right up to his face. In his bed at J J Hospital, he strains over a letter pad and scribbles the words.
Singh (38) has been a taxi driver in the city since 1996. On Sunday evening, he was about to return home in Sewri after the day’s work, when a group of four passengers hailed him at Priyadarshini in Chembur at around 7 pm. “They told me that they wanted to go to the Indian Oil pump in Sewri.
Thinking I would drop them before going home, I told them to sit. On the way, near Mahul creek in Dockyard Road, they asked me stop at a public urinal,” Singh writes, conveying the beginning of his horrifying ordeal.
As soon as he stopped the taxi, he relates, one of them removed a gun and asked Singh to sit in the backseat, while another took over the wheel. “After a few minutes, I heard them talking in near whispers that they would kill me and throw my body on the freeway and run away with the taxi,” Singh scrawls.
At a loss for what to do next, he suddenly lunged at the steering wheel and swerved it, directing the taxi in an about-turn, and started screaming. “They aimed the gun at me and said that if I screamed, they would shoot me.
Meanwhile, my taxi rammed into a school bus and came to a halt. I screamed again and held one of them, and soon some people gathered,” Singh adds.
Of the four, three tried to run away, but Singh held on fiercely to the one he had managed to catch. His accomplices began assaulting Singh with a knife to loosen his grip, and injured him seriously. “They attacked my eyes and throat with a knife, and tried stabbing me wherever they could.
But, I didn’t leave the person I had caught. So, the three fled. Then, the people who had gathered around handed him over to the Byculla police, and one of the bystanders took me to J J Hospital on his bike and admitted me,” he writes on the notepad.
His cousin, Nirmal Singh, also a taxi driver, has been with him since he was admitted to the hospital. He says, “It is scary when I think of driving my taxi. They wanted to steal and run away with his Santro. We have not yet told him about his eye. His family arrived on Wednesday and we are thinking about what we can do for him and his family’s survival.”
He adds that they belong to a poor family and lead a hand-to-mouth existence, and the loss of an eye for Singh also means that he has lost his livelihood. Singh’s wife, who lives in Bihar with their four children, says, “We are waiting for some miracle so we can take him home and are praying for financial help.”
She has come directly to the hospital from the railway station, after arriving in the city. Singh’s plight has also disturbed other taxi drivers in the city, who say they have to be cautious of whom they let in.
When contacted, A L Quadros, general secretary, Mumbai Taximen’s Union, who visited the hospital, told this reporter, “It is very tragic that our drivers are attacked and attempts are made to kill them and rob them of their taxis.
Since it is a new taxi, it has more resale value. I am writing a letter to the authorities to ask them to look into this matter and help the drivers.” An attempt to murder case has been registered at the Byculla police station against the four persons, only one of whom is in custody.