RTOs wake up to common man's woes after cabbie snubs transport chief

After a taxi driver refused him a ride in Worli, transport commissioner Mahesh Zagade instructed RTO officials to crack down on fare refusals or face the music, forcing them to swing into action

Here’s something every Mumbaikar may take comfort from: When it comes to auto and taxi drivers refusing fares, they don’t spare even the state transport commissioner — the man in charge of all the RTOs responsible for keeping them in line.

Mahesh Zagade
Mahesh Zagade

What’s more, the refusal faced by the new Transport Commissioner, Mahesh Zagade, is set to make your life easier as he has instructed all the regional transport officers in the city to ensure that such things do not happen, or they will have to face the music.

RTO officials have been given one month to crack down on the fare refusal menace. Pic for representation
RTO officials have been given one month to crack down on the fare refusal menace. Pic for representation

The warning, coming from a man who carried out a strict crackdown on chemists, doctors and internet pharmacy rackets as the state Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner, has transport department officials scrambling for cover.

About a month ago, just some time after Zagade had taken over as the transport commissioner, he decided to try and hail a cab from Worli, but was refused by the taxi driver.

He told RTO officials about the incident and said he knew about auto and taxi drivers blatantly refusing fares to ordinary Mumbaikars in the island city as well as the western and eastern suburbs.

“I just wanted to check the refusals made by the taxi and auto drivers,” said Zagade, who had not noted the number of the taxi in Worli. He added that he did not want to travel in the cab, but just wanted to carry out an inspection.

He informed the RTO officials about the refusal and, on November 5, instructed them to begin taking strict action against auto and taxi drivers who refuse fares.

Zagade said that there is no reason for these drivers to refuse fare irrespective of them being long- or short-distance ones. “I have given RTOs a month to ensure that they take action against refusals. After that, I will get on the field and if I find such violations, action will be taken,” added Zagade.

Cracking down
Knowing that they cannot afford to take Zagade’s threat lightly, transport department officials have swung into action. “We have asked our men to pose as decoy commuters and hail taxis and auto rickshaws.

If the drivers refuse, the men have been asked to make a note of details like the vehicle number, time of travel and place where they tried to hail the vehicle,” said an RTO official.

This personal inspection by RTO officials began yesterday and various groups have been formed to be stationed across the city and suburbs. Asked if they will take help from unions, transport department officials said their men can take strict action without the intervention of unions.

Union speak
The taxi unions, meanwhile, say that the transport department should take their views and difficulties into consideration. “For instance, drivers heading to their homes have to refuse passengers if they want to go to a location that is not in the same direction,” said taxi union leader A L Quadros.

Other leaders said that in certain locations, drivers don’t get return fares and have to lose money by travelling empty. This, they claim, is another valid reason for refusal. The unions are in talks with the transport department to address their issues.

The number of Regional Transport Offices in Maharashtra

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