Taxi drivers threaten city-wide strike as they tussle with Deonar police officals, alleging that constables are slashing tyres to deter illegal parking
Five hundred taxi drivers from Mankhurd, Ghatkopar, Chembur and Deonar refused to ply and led a morcha to the Deonar police station on Saturday. The drivers alleged that their vehicles, which remain parked on the service road adjoining the Mankhurd-Ghatkopar Link Road through the night, were being punctured and damaged by officers from Deonar police station for the last three nights in a row.
Cabbies park their vehicles outside the exit road of the Deonar dumping ground. Drivers allege that constables are deflating tyres on purpose. Pic/ Suresh KK
Taxi drivers claim that police resorted to such pressure tactics to deter them from parking on the service road at night. The drivers are threatening a city-wide strike backed by the union from February 13 till 16, the day of the municipal elections if the harassment by the police continues.
AL Quadros, General Secretary, Mumbai Taximens' Union, said, "The taxi drivers have been parking their vehicles on the service road between 9 pm and 7 am for 15 years. Since the cabs are parked late at night and removed early in the morning, before rush hour begins, it does not disrupt traffic. However, over the last few days, officers from the Deonar police station have asked the drivers to stop parking their vehicles on the service road and instead park them near their homes."
According to the taxi-drivers, most of them stay in the nearby hutments and have no place to park their vehicles. "The police must understand our situation. They are pressurising helpless drivers by puncturing and damaging their vehicles since Wednesday. If they puncture our taxis on Saturday night, the Union will ask all the taxi-drivers in Mumbai to strike against this harassment by the police," said Quadros.
A taxi driver who alleges that a constable thrashed his windowpanes said on condition of anonymity, "We are poor people. Such damages cause us a lot of financial strain. On Friday night, some of our drivers saw constables in civil dress from Deonar police station deflating the tyres and thrashing windowpanes of the parked taxis. When the drivers pleaded with the constables to stop damaging the vehicles, the constables said that they had orders from higher authorities to do so and warned the drivers against parking their vehicles on the service road again."
Another driver who claims that the tyres of his vehicle were punctured everyday since Wednesday said, "Every morning when I go to the cab, I find my tyres slashed. All of us have collectively decided to not repair our vehicles as they are damaged every night."
Assistant Commissioner of Police, Vilas Pawar did not comment on the allegation of constables damaging cabs.
He said, "It is illegal for anyone to park their vehicle on the service road. Even if there isn't flowing traffic on the service road, it is important for it to be vacant in case of an emergency. If the taxi drivers are parking their vehicles on the service road then the police station must levy a fine of Rs 100 every time they park their vehicle there. If they park their vehicles beyond 15 hours, the BMC is authorised to collect a fine of Rs 5,000 from the drivers."