Taking cognisance of a MiD DAY report on auto rickshaw drivers charging exorbitant fares from unsuspecting commuters at Sangamwadi bridge after they alight from private buses, traffic police swung into action, booking 21 auto rickshaw drivers for various traffic violations yesterday.
MiD DAY in its report ‘Auto men take people for ride with pre-paid booth’ on December 18 had highlighted how auto drivers browbeat passengers into paying exorbitant fares at the Sangamwadi private bus stand by falsely claiming that the rickshaw stand is a designated pre-paid booth.
Yesterday, along with a MiD DAY reporter, police laid a trap at Sangamwadi bridge in the morning because private buses halt here between 7 am and 9am. Three policemen and two lady constables, clad in civil dress, impersonating as passengers approached the auto drivers and inquired about fares for various areas. Auto drivers demanded higher fares and refused to use meters.
Some refused short distances too. The police caught them in the act red-hand and started seizing their licence. After realising that punitive action is being taken, few auto rickshaw drivers tried to flee from the spot. But, since the police came well prepared, two police vans stationed at Yerawada and another at Wakadewadi stopped them in their tracks.
D B Katkar, PSI, Yerawada led the operation. He said, “We have booked 21 auto rickshaw drivers and collected fines to the tune of Rs 4,500. We have disqualified four licences and have sent it to the Regional Transportation Office (RTO) for further action. We charged them with different offences like refusal to ply or use the meter, absence of licence, uniform and batch. We are going to conduct regular drives to avoid such practices.”
Earlier, private buses had a designated spot at an open ground near Sangamwadi Bridge. But to save time, they started halting on the bridge. “This area is a remote place. Since there is no availability of public transport, people don’t have an option but rely on these rickshaws. To take a bus or rickshaw, commuters have to proceed to Wakadewadi, which is quite a distance and not walkable,” said Katkar.
He said that tourist buses share the blame for this problem. “Private inter-city buses pick up passengers from various spots but when they return to Pune, they don’t drop people at these spots. The designated parking spot on the bridge can’t be used as a bus stand. Buses should have stops in different parts of the city,” he said.
The Yerawada police station will now put up a board with their contact numbers at Sangamwadi so that commuters facing problems from auto rickshaw drivers can contact the police immediately.
Vishwas Pandhare, DCP Traffic, said, “We are continuously taking action against defaulting auto rickshaw drivers to create deterrence. We are appealing to the people to inform us if they face any misbehaviour or malpractice during their journeys.”