Caught on camera: Auto drivers at LTTE force women to take rides at hefty fares

Updated: Feb 08, 2019, 19:29 IST | Suraj Ojha and Faizan Khan

Women commuters planted by the Bombay Catholic Sabha at Lokmanya Tilak Terminus were forced to take autos at hefty fares; the blatant dadagiri was caught on camera

Caught on camera: Auto drivers at LTTE force women to take rides at hefty fares

It is often a rough ride for passengers alighting at the Lokmanya Tilak Terminus as men dressed in civil clothes on platforms entice them into taking an auto/taxi at exorbitant rates. The loot was demonstrated by members of the Bombay Catholic Sabha on Thursday as they volunteered to pose as commuters at LTT and bring the scam to light.

The act was planned after a senior citizen from Vikhroli was recently fleeced by a man posing as a coolie at LTT and forced her to take an auto that charged her a bomb.

The autowallas coerce commuters right at the platform, forcing their luggage into vehicles
The autowallas coerce commuters right at the platform, forcing their luggage into vehicles

Members of BCS sent four women to pose as commuters at LTT on Thursday morning, but before they could reach the terminus exit, men dressed in civil clothes accosted them by offering them a ride home. This was despite more than 500 auto drivers being fined by the traffic police in the eastern suburbs including LTT for violating traffic norms, in the last two days.

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According to locals, these auto drivers operate around the terminus from midnight to early morning when there are no policemen around. Mario Rodrigues, chairperson, BCS Vikhroli, said that these men were not wearing any uniform or their mandatory badges. "Also, they ventured inside the station without any platform tickets and there was no GRP or RPF personnel manning the platform either," she added.

Members of the BCS posed as commuters at LTT on Thursday
Members of the BCS posed as commuters at LTT on Thursday

All the BCS members - Gretta Saldanha, 64, Anna Ambrose, 49,  Rinha D'Souza, 57, and Philo Lobo, 71, were stopped by these men who demanded heavy amounts to drop them home. "He asked me for Rs 400 to drop me to Mulund and I agreed on R350 after he kept following me. It is very risky for women who come to the city for the first time," said Ambrose.

The BCS drive was a result of retired teacher Cecilia D'Costa being fleeced at LTT. Having arrived from Mangalore on January 19 around 6.40 am at LTT, D'Costa was followed by a man in civil clothes, posing as a porter. He picked her bag and took her to an auto parked outside the station.

Passengers arriving late at night or early in the morning are their usual targets as there are usually no policemen around at that time, allege locals. Pics/Pradeep Dhivar
Passengers arriving late at night or early in the morning are their usual targets as there are usually no policemen around at that time, allege locals. Pics/Pradeep Dhivar

"He charged me Rs 150 for carrying the luggage and another Rs 100 to drop me to an auto stand, from where the auto driver took Rs 200 to drop me to Vikhroli," said D'Costa. "The incident scared me as I was helpless and there was nobody I could have approached. I am a frequent traveller but have never seen any police here. This time I approached BCS," she added.

In 2014, too, BCS members had organised a morcha after Hyderabad-based techie Esther Anuhya , who had arrived at LTT, was raped and murdered by a man posing as an auto driver.

Police promise strict action
While senior inspector of Kurla GRP M Inamdar said that the traffic management at LTT station premises falls under the Mumbai police's traffic division, he added that "it would be difficult to spot these people in civil clothes during our patrolling across platforms."

A K Shrivastava, Principal Chief Security Commissioner of Central Railway, however, said, "We will take strict action against such people." "We have deployed our staff here round the clock. We used to book 25 to 30 people every day including drivers without uniforms, badges, refusing fares, over-charging passengers and more. If people are still breaking laws at LTT, we will take stringent action against them," assured senior police inspector Balkrishna Mane of Chembur Division Traffic.

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