Mumbai's taxi and auto drivers say they have the right to refuse
Officials of the traffic department are having a hard time cracking down on taxi and auto drivers who refuse fares, a practice that has become rampant in the monsoons, they say.
Traffic department officials say that auto and taxi drivers do not stop refusing fares, even when they know they could have to pay fines for doing so. Pic for representation
While citizens prefer to flag taxis and autos when they are forced to emerge from their homes during heavy showers, auto and taxi drivers are equally reluctant to ferry them to their destinations in inclement weather, leaving many in the lurch.
The officials claim that even after conducting drives and extracting fines from errant drivers, they have been unable to tackle the issue of fare refusal in the city.
Figures compiled for the first half of the year show that refusals are most common in areas like D N Nagar in Andheri and Ghatkopar.
According to the Traffic officials, taxi and rickshaw drivers are no longer intimidated by the prospect of police action against them. They also claim that passengers often complain without understanding the constraints under which drivers work.
“When we investigate cases after complaints are lodged, we often find that the passengers are at fault, but still register complaints. Taxi and auto drivers mostly refuse to ply long distances towards the end of their shifts, before they have to return the vehicles,” said a senior Traffic official.
The Traffic department claims to have been conducting drives in which they have fined errant drivers. They say that while these drives have temporary effect, the problem keeps resurfacing.
In traffic divisions where refusal of fares is particularly rampant, more officials will soon be deployed to nab truant drivers, say officials. The passengers usually lodge complaints through emails as well as by calling the helpline numbers or the Traffic department control room.
Drivers of taxi and auto rickshaws, however, have their own story. Most of them insisted that they are justified in refusing fares if the destination doesn’t suit their convenience.
“We understand the problems faced by passengers, but sometimes they start misbehaving with us and forcibly try to sit in our vehicles. They also threaten that they will complain to the police or drag us to the police station. We have genuine reasons for refusing passengers,” Ramashankar Pandey, an auto driver plying near Andheri station, said.
Javed Shaikh, a taxi driver who says he has been driving his vehicle in the Kandivli area for the past 12 years, said, “A few years ago, refusing fares was unheard of. There were more taxis on the roads and fewer people — it has now become the exact opposite. While there are many more passengers these days, the number of taxis has reduced drastically, thanks to the many rules imposed by the government.”
Meanwhile, passengers in the city seem to have given up on the possibility of things ever improving. Rajiv Shah, a brand consultant at Vidyavihar, said, “I used to lodge complaints earlier, but when I saw that nothing was changing in spite of all my complaints, I stopped. These days, I prefer walking distances and asking many drivers till someone agrees. ”
Dr B K Upadhyay, joint commissioner of police (traffic), said, “We have informed all the divisions to look seriously into this matter and take action against such drivers who refuse to ply.”