If you’re in an auto rickshaw and fearing for life and limb as the driver seems to be driving like he’s not used to it, chances are, he isn’t. The state Transport Department is to blame. The overzealous department is gambling with the lives of people. In a bid to increase the number of auto rickshaws — which is said to be for the improvement in public transport in Mumbai — the department has allowed even people with zero driving experience to drive auto rickshaws.
The Road Safety Fortnight was inaugurated at a function at the NCPA by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, where state Transport Minister Diwakar Raote and Mumbai Police Commissioner Ahmad Javed were present, yesterday. Interestingly, Transport Department’s decision comes while this drive is being implemented. Pic/Sayyed Sameer Abedi
The impact of this has been such, that for a lottery for reviving 35,628 dead permits of auto rickshaws, they received applications from 1,29,555 people only in Mumbai and its metropolitan region, yesterday. Out of these, the number of women applicants was 465 while seven transgenders also applied. Throughout the state, the number of permits opened up are around 42,700, including Mumbai, Thane, Pune, Nashik and Nagpur.
“As per the rule, there was a need for driving experience for one year, which is also required for truck and other commercial vehicle drivers. However, as an auto rickshaw is different from other commercial vehicles, we have reduced the experience of knowing how to drive it to zero,” explained a Transport Department official.
The authorities claim that in Mumbai around 80 per cent of people travel by public transport including trains, taxis, auto rickshaws and buses. “We simply need to improve the public transport infrastructure and there is no need for odd-even system of private vehicles in Mumbai,” said Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.
Sources said that these permits will be given to people who hold valid badges meant for driving commercial vehicles. “People keep complaining that the auto drivers simply refuse to ply, and we understood that there is a need for more rickshaws on road. For this, we also brought down the educational qualification for drivers to Std VIII,” said Diwakar Raote, state Transport Minister. Earlier the qualification was Std X and due to this, many drivers couldn’t get permits.
The Transport Department has also allotted five per cent of the total permits for women across the state.
But, they agreed that the number of women, who applied is less than five per cent and so there are chances of more men getting the auto permits. They are also making arrangements for having a new colour scheme for auto rickshaws, which would be either pink or light orange. These would be driven only by women but the passengers can be anyone.
Also in the days — probably on the birth anniversary of Balasaheb Thackeray — to come, more autos and taxis dead permits would be opened as part of lottery.
Alco-booths for drunks
Meanwhile the Traffic police, in a bid to ensure that people take up public transport like autos and taxis, especially after consuming alcohol, are planning to have an ‘alco-booth’ outside restaurants.
Here, people can check their alcohol consumption and depending on that call for taxis, cool cabs and autos, whose numbers would be provided at the booth.
Number of woman applicants
Number of transgender applicants
Number of applications received in Mumbai and its metropolitan region for the permits