Ready to weed out 30,000 illegal autos plying in Mumbai: Union leader Shashank Sharad Rao
While he welcomes Mumbai police's crackdown on rogue auto rickshaw drivers in BKC and other areas, union boss Shashank Rao also advises genuine auto drivers not to refuse any fare
President of the Mumbai Autorickshaw Taximen's Union, Shashank Sharad Rao, doesn't mince words when it comes to the issue of illegal autorickshaws in the city. Speaking to mid-day about how tens of thousands of such vehicles have infested Mumbai, he said, "We are aware of the issue of illegal autos and have been continuously warning authorities. When we complained in 2012, there were about 20,000 such autos and now the number must have gone up to 30,000."
Rao said, "These vehicles are basically autorickshaws assembled from discarded units, and they run without permits or badges. We have been continuously writing letters to authorities since 2012 about such autos, and about them operating in Bandra, Kurla and other areas in the city."
Commuters said only places with police presence saw a difference while chaos continued at other locations. Pics/Sayyed Sameer Abedi
"Such autos usually ply from share auto stands, where they do not need to go out of the area or on the main road, so that they don't get caught easily. Share auto stands are set up in areas as per the demand, but because getting an approved share auto stand is a very tedious process, many of them come up without any formal permission," he added.
Rao is determined to remove these vehicles from Mumbai's roads. "During a recent meeting, we told the transport department that we are ready to participate in action to weed out illegal autos as well as other similar transport like buses, if they give us a dedicated squad for 365 days, with a transport officer, a traffic official and a policeman. We are willing to have one of our representatives identify such vehicles, and the areas that have this menace, but there has been no response," he said.
Shashank Sharad Rao
Speaking about how some auto mafias operate, Rao said, "At stations like Bandra and Kurla terminus, trains start arriving at 3.30 am, and the auto mafia operates from then till 6 am or so, and fleeces innocent passengers. Genuine drivers are not even allowed to operate during the period. Cops fear taking action as it leads to law and order issues and other complications." Giving an example of a stand in Goregaon, Rao said druggies run the show there among licensed autorickshaw drivers, but authorities have not taken any action against them. "Law enforcement by authorities is the need of the hour," he said.
Don't refuse fare
Upon being asked about how genuine rickshaw drivers also refuse fare, Rao said his Union has been appealing to all auto drivers not to do so. "We have been explaining auto drivers regularly that a passenger is our bread and butter, and that they should not refuse anyone as they are the ones running our business. We have been holding workshops in all parts of the suburbs to educate about this aspect," he said.
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