The share-a-rickshaw initiative was started so that it would be easy on the pockets of Mumbaikars residing in western and eastern suburbs. Instead it has become a money-minting scheme for auto rickshaw drivers who accommodate more than the stipulated passengers during peak hours.
Taking a serious note of the hazards of overloading, auto-rickshaw unions have now approached the state transport department and Regional Transport Offices (RTOs) and asked them to take stringent action against the law-breakers. It has been ascertained that the share autos operating outside railway stations violate the norms.
A source from the auto union claims that this problem is evident at Kurla, Bandra, Kandivli, Andheri, Jogeshwari and Ghatkopar stations and is fast spreading to other areas. It has been observed that these auto drivers accommodate three passengers in the backseat, and ask two other passengers to sit beside them, thereby not only breaching the law but also endangering the lives of the passengers. At times even four persons are seen sitting in the backseat.
To make matters worse, these violations are taking place less than a month after the Road Safety Fortnight that ended on January 15. “We have informed the transport department as well as the RTO, but they haven’t taken any action yet to curb this menace. The official fare charts too are missing at these share auto stands,” said Shashank Rao, assistant general secretary, Mumbai Auto Rickshawmen’s Union.
Other union leaders claim that these illegal auto drivers those who don’t have permits or vehicles that don’t have the necessary documents — are hand-in-glove with transport authorities. “If any auto driver is found seating four or more passengers then the police should take action against them. I will inform the drivers from our union to abstain or stop other drivers from overloading,” said union leader Hussain Dalwai.
Many commuters have also complained about these auto drivers claiming that they behave insolently and are unruly. “The driver was waiting at the stand even though there were three passengers seated behind. When I objected, the driver rudely asked me to get down if I was having a problem and that he was waiting for another passenger to be seated next to him,” said G Sharma, a resident of Kandivli.
Others have complained that these drivers follow a single route, even though a shorter route is accessible. “We have been witnessing the high-handedness of these drivers who don’t even follow the correct fare chart and instead impose their own tariff. We will be soon meeting the senior officials from the transport department to discuss this issue,” said Shirish Deshpande, consumer activist, Mumbai Grahak Panchayat.