Last October, MiD DAY carried out a series of campaigns for nearly two months against auto rickshaw drivers who refused fares, be it short distance or long. Now former union secretary PMA Hakim, who was appointed by the Maharashtra government earlier this year, has made note of this problem in his 140-page report on the various issues pertaining to taxi and auto rickshaw drivers.
While suggesting a hike in fare of autos and taxis, including increasing the night fare to 30 per cent of the normal fare, Hakim has also urged the Transport department to take cognizance of this problem of refusal of passengers. The report states that there are certain duties and obligations on part of the permit holder to follow as far as transporting passengers is concerned.
“Failure to comply with certain duties can warrant the cancellation of permit. Refusal to carry a passenger who approaches the permit holder or his agent is one such act which amounts to violation of the conditions of the permit,” says the Hakim committee report. Many drivers usually refuse passengers if it is a short distance fare.
The passenger associations who met Hakim during the public hearings in April claim that they had specifically ensured that the former bureaucrat noted the issue of refusal in his in his report. “Refusal is a major problem faced by lakhs of people everyday. There is no guarantee that auto and taxi drivers would not refuse even after the proposed hike in fare by Hakim committee,” said Shirish Deshpande, Mumbai Grahak Panchayat who stated that they had taken cuttings of the series on ‘refusal to ply’ by MiD DAY for reference.
Sources in the Regional Transport Office (RTO) said that they have been receiving complaints of refusal to ply on their helpline number, even today and that since June 2010, the number of complaints have crossed 4,500. The report has further blamed the auto rickshaw unions for not educating their drivers properly and that they fail to realize the gravity of the situation.
“Certain minimum fare has been fixed at a fairly high level, in order to ensure that the auto-rickshaw operators do not lose out of waiting for new passengers. Thus, there is no ground to condone instances of refusal of passengers,” added the report. It has also been suggested that the website of each RTO should carry the name, designation and e-mail of the officer to whom complaints regarding refusal should be sent.
“We will be studying the Hakim report before implementing it,” said VN More, state Transport Commissioner.
Other vital suggestions
>> Annual revision of fares of both taxis and auto rickshaws
>> Night charges to be increased to 30 percent instead of 25 percent of the total fare
>> Revised proposed minimum fare of autos: Rs 15
>> Revised proposed minimum fare of taxis: Rs 20