In Thane, auto drivers ply from a designated auto stand in five separate queues without refusing a single fare; a win-win situation for both, the commuters as well as the autorickshaw drivers

It may sound bizarre, but it is true! During the ongoing Meter Down campaign, the reporter witnessed an unusual spectacle at Thane West. All the autos in the vicinity were plying commuters from an auto stand adjacent to the station.

What was even more astonishing was the fact that none of the passengers were subjected to refusals, nor did commuters jump their queues and tried luring in auto drivers into ferrying them by promising extra money.

There are some 20,000-odd autos that queue up in five different columns daily at the stand and commuters board rickshaws as per their destinations. According to a traffic constable deployed at the station road, "Due to this service, refusal cases have dropped down to just one per cent."

Commuters patiently wait for their turn to board
an auto outside Thane station

This ingenious solution is the outcome of application of common sense and collaboration between the two auto rickshaw unions namely: Rashtrawadi Rickshaw Taxi Mahasangh (RRTM) and Ekta Rickshaw Chalak Sena Cooperation and the Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC).

'Zero complaints'
Deepak Ghodake, general secretary, RRTM, said, "We make sure that commuters are always ferried to their destinations.

Till date, we haven't received a single complaint from any of the commuters. In our union, we only allow legal rickshaw drivers, and travellers are always charged as per the meter. However, some two years ago, the situation was exactly the opposite.

Auto drivers would run amok, plying passengers as per their convenience. It was the TMC who took the first step and we joined them.

Today, our autos are parked in five separate queues and it isn't a compulsion for the commuter to disclose his destination before boarding an auto. All a commuter has to do is stand in the right line."

Auto driver speaks
Rickshaw driver Manoj Salavi said, "On an average, we work for about 16 hours a day. During this period we take breaks. But whenever we do so, we make it a point to inform our colleagues and the cops about our breaks.

For example, if I want to have my lunch, I'll inform my colleagues so that they can take their break after me. By doing so, we ensure that the commuters are not at all inconvenienced. Besides, even our earnings are satisfactory."

Commuters speak
Paresh Koli said, "It has been 10 months since I've been commuting via auto daily and as far as my memory stretches, I can tell you that I've never faced a single refusal."

Ramchandra Jadhav, a senior citizen said, "My house is just five minutes from the station. I usually come to station road to pick up fruits or vegetables. Being old, even a minute's walk leaves me panting, so I prefer an auto. And till date, no auto driver has refused to ply me."

When this system was introduced, a couple of traffic constables were posted at the site to nab errant drivers. But now, they just patrol twice a day for five to ten minutes, because we never refuse commuters, irrespective of their destinations
Ishwar Jadhav, joint general secretary, RRTM