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No mechanism to check mental health of auto, taxi drivers

In the aftermath of a mentally unfit driver's road rampage in Pune, transport bodies have realised that they have no inventory of auto and taxi drivers and will thus find it difficult to bring them together and conduct medical exams

Nearly a week has passed since Santosh Mane -- the state transport bus driver wreaked havoc on the busy streets of Pune, mowing down eight people, injuring 27 and damaging many vehicles ('Kill me, demon driver pleaded with braveheart student,' MiD DAY, January 26.) In the wake of the bloodbath, officials of the state Transport Department and regional transport offices (RTOs) in Mumbai are a worried lot. It is reported that the government officials have been racking their brains in search of a foolproof method for checking the physical and mental fitness of taxi and auto rickshaw drivers, who are large in number and scattered all across the city.


Death drive: On Wednesday morning, bus driver Santosh Mane, who is
reportedly mentally unfit, wreaked havoc on the busy streets of Pune,
mowing down eight people and damaging many vehicles


The RTO officials feel that it is virtually impossible for them to identify taxi and auto drivers who are mentally unstable and could pose a threat to citizens. "Whatever happened in Pune was a one-off case. However, it would be very difficult for us to carry out checks of all the taxi and auto drivers, who are vast in number," said a senior RTO official. There are around one lakh taxi drivers operating 42,000 cabs, and over two lakh drivers plying 1.04 lakh autos in Mumbai. Many of them drive in shifts, having been employed by the permit holders. The state has not made a register with names and details of all the drivers, and a single driver may be part of several unions, or none.

There has been talk of pooling in the bus drivers working for the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) for training, but doing the same with the taxi and auto drivers who are scattered across the city would be a difficult task. There is also no official channel through which these auto and taxi drivers could be asked to congregate at a common spot.

At present, anyone who applies for a licence has to submit a medical certificate. After this, there is no mechanism in place for medical examination of the drivers, apart from the annual eye checkups that are conducted during the Road Safety Fortnight programmes. "This year it was found that around 35 per cent of taxi and auto drivers have poor vision. But we have no way of gauging if the driver is facing mental problems," said an RTO official.

"We will have to take help of respective taxi and auto unions if and when we plan to check these drivers in the future. The government has set up a committee to study the incident that occurred at Pune, and will soon submit a report," said Dr S Sharma, principal secretary, (transport).

"There are many drivers, and it is difficult to keep tabs on the health issues afflicting them. We could do something only if the government helped," said AL Quadros, general secretary, Mumbai Taximen's Union.

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