Mumbai: The many excuses used by errant auto drivers, cabbies

Ire and fire meet the ‘for hire’ sign as autos and cabbies continue to refuse to ply. Irked commuters speak out

Mumbai commuters continue to get ‘no’ for an answer from auto and cab drivers when asked to ply. From the inane to the outrageous their reasons for refusal span the entire spectrum.

Illustrations/Amit Bandre
Illustrations/Amit Bandre

Anger over refusals
Prabhadevi resident and baking teacher Shradha Agarwalla says, “Getting a taxi in my area is very troublesome. If a cab driver is going in one direction he almost always says no to turn and come the other way. This behaviour makes me wonder why they are even on the road.”

Taxi driver refusals also vex a number of commuters like their rickshaw counterparts. Pic/Sayed Sameer Abedi
Taxi driver refusals also vex a number of commuters like their rickshaw counterparts. Pic/Sayed Sameer Abedi

She goes on to say, “First they will slow down and ask kidhar jana hai, then they say no and speed away. If they don’t want to come then they should say no properly without asking about the destination.” Agreeing with her, Shripal Gandhi, speaking about his auto woes in the city, says, “My daughter was 2, when I had to take her to the doctor as she was running a high temperature.

I asked nearly a dozen autos, who refused, citing the reason of having to return empty. Frustrated, I just sat in the next auto that came by and asked him to take me to my destination. When he said no, I refused to get down, even telling him about how sick my daughter was. He said that it was not his problem.

Hearing the shouting a crowd gathered and that is when the auto driver agreed to go to the destination. How can they be so heartless?” “Rickshaws do not agree to ply in peak hours for short distances, even after telling them our difficulty or citing an emergency to reach our destination.

My parents are senior citizens and they find it difficult to walk sometimes and so we need a rickshaw, yet the thoughtless rickshaw drivers refuse,” says Kotta Agnes, Andheri resident.

Media professional Aishwarya Das-Pattnaik who commutes from Santacruz West to East says, “Asking a rickshaw driver to take me from home to work is literally a penance. I am so fed up of refusals that I now ask the police to help me. There is a police station near my house. The cops helps me get a rickshaw to work daily. Coming back home is still a struggle as rickshaw drivers prefer distant fares.”

Weird reasons
Some strange reasons have left commuters baffled when they have been refused by taxi and rickshaw drivers. Vardhaman Jain, businessman who commutes from Wadala to Charni Road daily says, “Taxi drivers should be given the award for most original excuses.

They say there is some problem with the vehicle and so make me get off and then fake a repair drama. Then, they speed off taking another commuter along the way. I always enter the cab without asking, if they are on the road, they are for hire. But their refusals and drama is too much to tolerate.”

Pari Tiwari who travels from her home in Malad to college in Bandra says, “At Bandra, the rickshaw line and share a rickshaw racket is too stressful. I have had times when the rickshaw drivers in the line have blatantly refused to take me to my destination and chosen a further fare.

With the traffic police almost never there, the rickshaw drivers threaten commuters who argue. They say they have to go to the toilet, are tired and give the other classic excuses. Thankfully, at Malad the situation is much better.” Her classmate Sanjay Phule adds, “I live in Bandra and once got into a fist fight with the rickshaw driver for refusing. He claimed that I could walk from my house at Carter Road to college at Linking Road.

When I am ready to pay, who is he to give me advice? When the fight started, a few of his goons came and started beating me. They were also rickshaw drivers who said that they have come to make money, not do charity. By taking a commuter, how can they call it charity? They openly admitted duping passengers with the share a rickshaw service in the area.”

Excuses galore
Of all the strange reasons for refusals, the hardest to believe for Mohan Pandit was when a taxi driver told him, that he had to go for a film audition. The finance professional says, “I was taking a cab from Haji Ali to Nariman Point, the taxi driver was listening to music from some latest Bollywood film.

At every signal he kept styling his hair and looking in the rear view mirror. Then when we were at Girgaum, he got a call and stopped the cab. He put the phone off and told me that he got a film audition and so needed to go there. I was unsure if that was true or not. Anyhow he forced me to get off and drove away.”

While travelling from Kurla station to Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC) Piyush Shinde, chef, says he was refused by a number of rickshaw drivers who coerced him to get into one by force. The Thane resident says, “I was running late, but at the same time wanted to teach the errant rickshaw driver a lesson.

I told him to either take me to my destination or the police station. He stalled the rickshaw and refused to take it to either place. He then got out and left me stranded in the rickshaw. This was shocking behaviour.” Monica Subhedar, Ghatkopar resident says, “I had a nightmarish experience while returning from a friend’s wedding at Chembur, recently. Getting a rickshaw back home was tough. It was nearing midnight and all the rickshaw drivers were refusing.

I pleaded with a few and one agreed, but his meter seemed tampered as it was moving very fast and skipping certain digits. When I confronted him about the same he threatened to leave me on a lonely road. The fare which should have been Rs 100 maximum, even with midnight rate ended up being Rs 250. I was too scared to complain to the police as I live alone.”

Rickshaw reason
Explaining why rickshaw drivers in the city say no to commuters, Shashank Rao, assistant general secretary of the Mumbai Autorickshawmen Union says, “The major reason why there are refusals is the illegal auto racket in the city.

There are more than 35,000 illegal rickshaws in Mumbai who don’t follow rules and hence, don’t care about the commuters. Because of these, the name of all rickshaw drivers is getting spoilt.”

Stating that the problem needs to be weeded out as soon as possible, Rao says, “These goons operate at places where they get tourists who they loot by not following the meter and working in gangs.

People need to complain to the Regional Transport Office (RTO) or the traffic police if they are fleeced. We have as a union requested for a special squad to be set up to deal with this menace. By the end of January this will be started.”

Auto drivers have the right to refuse according to Rao as he says, “There is a shortage of rickshaws and so a few drivers are overworked. Mostly when they refuse there is a valid reason.

They have to return the rickshaw and so only take passengers who are on the way. This is the No 1 reason for refusals, but commuters misunderstand.”

Taxi defense
AL Quadros, leader of Mumbai taxi association says, “Taxi drivers end up working for more than 12 hours and as human beings they need to get rest. With just 20,000 taxis in the city, it becomes difficult for them to operate and compete with private cars. If they want a good fare how can they be wrong? They need to earn money, going short distances aren’t beneficial.”

Blaming the traffic as the top reason for refusal, Quadros adds, “In areas like Peddar Road, once a taxi driver goes there he does not get a return fare, so he refuses. Also there is too much traffic which ends up being a loss for a taxi driver. The rate at which the meter moves is very slow. We prefer more fares than getting stuck in relentless traffic.”

Top 5 excuses to not ply
1. Too much traffic.
2. Too close by, looking for a far fare.
3. Want to rest or go to the washroom.
4. Need to return the vehicle.
5. Have some urgent work.

Counter refusals
The Mumbai Traffic Police in association with the RTOs in the city launched a toll-free number 1800-22-0110 for commuters to register complaints against taxi and autorickshaw drivers for refusing to ferry them.

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