Mumbai: On Day 2, BKC-Kurla auto rickshaw mafia continues bullying commuters, defies cops

Updated: Feb 06, 2019, 20:02 IST | Faizan Khan

While citizens in Mumbai's Bandra-BKC-Kurla belt welcome police move, rogue auto rickshaw drivers continue to bully commuters where cops are absent

Mumbai: On Day 2, BKC-Kurla auto rickshaw mafia continues bullying commuters, defies cops
Gaurav B was refused by 10 auto drivers at BKC despite cop presence just metres away. Pic/Sayyed Sameer Abedi

Two days after the massive crackdown on auto drivers by the traffic police at BKC, Kurla station and LTT, the situation on the ground has gone back to square one. On Tuesday, commuters at BKC and Bandra East said things were smooth only in pockets that had police presence, while everywhere else, auto drivers continued to fleece them and refuse to ferry them over short distances. 

Sarika, 23, BKC
Sarika, 23, BKC. Pic/Sayyed Sameer Abedi

The drive seemed to have made the most significant difference at Kurla West station, which saw a few changes, while the situation outside Bandra East station remained the same. The traffic police on Tuesday booked around 67 errant auto drivers at Kurla West, while at Bandra East more than 40 auto drivers were booked for violation of traffic rules and refusal to ferry passengers.

According to office goers at BKC, the police strength deployed to handle the situation is not at all enough to tackle the issues faced by them on a daily basis. BKC sees lakhs of office-goers struggle every evening after long office hours to reach Bandra or Kurla stations. Taking advantage of the lack of local transport here, despite it being the second largest financial hub in the city, auto drivers give them a tough time either by overcharging or refusing fare.

Sunil Sampat, Kurla stn
Sunil Sampat, Kurla stn

When this reporter visited BKC, he saw that the traffic police personnel present could be easily counted on the fingers of one hand. Auto drivers agreed to ferry the passengers wherever the cops were present while the rest of BKC continued to be at the mercy of auto drivers. Till late evening, the handful of traffic cops managed to fine only around 20 auto drivers.

mid-day spoke to four working professionals at BKC who waited for almost 15 to 20 minutes to get an auto right opposite ICICI Bank HQ, at the World Trade Centre and at Diamond Market. Outside Kurla West station shopkeepers and daily commuters applauded the police for their action and hoped the drive would never end. The Kurla Traffic Police took action against 70 drivers and fined them around Rs 50K.

This commuter at Andheri West station was seen waiting for an auto for at least 20 minutes. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar
This commuter at Andheri West station was seen waiting for an auto for at least 20 minutes. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar

At Bandra East station, more than 40 auto drivers were fined on. Commuters said apart from fare refusal, the traffic menace here was a major issue, and a 5-minute trip takes over 25 minutes during peak hours.

Joint CP Traffic Amitesh Kumar said, "We are taking deterrent action whenever there is a complaint by a passenger of auto and taxi drivers refusing to ply, but it is not possible to depute a team all the time at every point of complaint. We will continue this drive to ensure commuters not harassed during peak hours."

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Kurla traffic division says
Senior PI Dilip Gujar of Kurla traffic said, "We have taken action against auto drivers on the third day of our special drive and we will continue. As far as separate lanes for share-auto and meter autos are concerned we are working with the authorities concerned. As private and BEST buses, too, operate here, creating a separate lane is tough, but we are working on in it."

Ajit V Shenoy

'BEST could ply small buses'
Ajit V Shenoy
Mumbai Vikas Samiti, founding 'member of Mumbai Mobility Forum
The traffic issue at BKC has to be termed as deficiency in demand management. Due to the huge flow of commuters, the transport department has to take the initiative to decongest the area, but this hasn't happened in years which has allowed auto drivers to treat citizens with arrogance. First, we should think about a public transport system that can solve the issue. BEST must come up with small buses to cater to the whole of BKC. This will help decongest the roads and set auto drivers right. Also, auto fares must be streamlined by the RTO and auto unions and displayed at stands.

Andheri drivers arrogant
Commuters outside Andheri west railway station are also suffering at the hands of arrogant autorickshaw drivers. "I reside in Versova and it costs me around R80 to go home in an auto rickshaw. I am ready to pay R100 for the ride, but they still they refuse to take me. They kill 15-20 minutes of my time every day," said one Vishakha.

Sachin, another commuter who resides in Azad Nagar, said he has to resort to walking home, "We cannot wait for an autorickshaw, because they never ferry passengers who live in nearby areas." Ramesh Dave, 68, who was trying to hail a rickshaw to go to DN Nagar said, "No one is ready to go. We cannot travel in a bus at this age."
Diwakar Sharma

Rajendra Kadam

'Traffic jams an issue at Bandra East'
Rajendra Kadam, government employee
'The traffic jam here is a major issue for us because of autorickshaw drivers and narrow lanes in the area. Those who want to take the bus have to wait for 15 to 20 minutes as there is no way for the vehicle to enter because the entire road is completely occupied by auto drivers. They refuse sometimes, but if cops are present, they agree to ferry'

Bhavna M

Bhavna M, deputy manager at private bank
'The situation has changed a lot in six months. Before that, there was no space to even walk, with the road being encroached by locals and auto drivers, who only want to ferry long distance. But main problem here is traffic during peak hours'

Shailendra Gupta

'Harassment continues at BKC'

Sarika, 23, BKC

Eight auto drivers refused to ferry me. This has become a daily ritual for us. Every day you have to wait for atleast 20 minutes and plead with auto drivers. You can't even take a bus which is always full. Hope this special drive will bring some relief.

Sunil Sampat, Kurla station

There has been a lot of police presence in Kurla West in the past two days due to which harassment by auto drivers has reduced. This should continue as only presence of cops during peak hours can change the situation.

Shailendra Gupta, senior manager at a private bank
'The harassment by auto drivers is everywhere, but in BKC the situation is getting worse with each passing day. I have been working here since the past seven years, and every time I walk out of my office to get an autorickshaw, I have to wait for at least 20 minutes. Even today, you saw more than 15 auto drivers refused to ply'

Gaurav B

Gaurav B, product manager
'Around ten auto drivers refused to ferry me today. Autorickshaw drivers refuse fare right opposite BKC police station. If they don't want to go, they won't, even if a cop is standing in front of them. Cops need to carry out special drives or establish a rickshaw stand at important locations, so that commuters can hail autos from there without any harassment'

Rupa Pawar

Rupa Pawar, production executive
'This has become a challenge for us in BKC. We have been complaining to cops on social media. Even traffic cops have come here and taken action, but the problem stays the same once they leave'

Sehruddin Suleman

'Drive must continue at Kurla West' 
Sehruddin Suleman, owner of hotel in Kurla West
'Buses and autos create serious traffic issues in the area, but police action over the past two days has not only helped commuters but shopkeepers as well'

Sharif Khan

Sharif Khan, social activist
'The drive was much needed in the area, as within two days of it, we can see a remarkable change. Still some auto drivers are trying to create problems. Police need to continue this drive to fix the problem'

Raees Sheikh

Raees Sheikh, auto driver
'We don't have an auto stand in this area, hence, drivers pick-up passengers from wherever they want, which eventually creates a bad image for us. There are many drivers who do not refuse fare and always follow the rules. The traffic cops should think about this instead of taking action against us all the time'.

Tweet Talk
Citizens cheer police action Mid- day’s front page report about the police crackdown against errant auto rickshaw drivers in BKC and Kurla elicited a resounding applause from citizens who have been at the receiving end of the share auto mafia for far too long. Here are some response from social media:

@ KanikaShriyan: Well done all involved. Need more such action on complaints given on social media.Super proud of all of you.

@ anand_ kapa: We have to first get hurt, then shoot the video then things will start moving. But for how long will there be vigil? These auto mafia are all over share stands, authorities don’t care much to bring permanent solution @ SriJainMahajan: Kindly arrange strict supervision of traffic police outside east & west side of Andheri stn! Autos there refuse to take passengers on meter for minimum distance fares. Let’s see how fast the traffic police dept takes cognizance of this post & do the needful.

@ AllanaArif: Good initiative. Auto drivers have scant respect for passengers. In Jogeshwari West share auto drivers carry 5 passengers from station lane cutting and driving on the wrong side. Overtaking from left is common. Please conduct a drive and penalise them.

@ manojiyer: Still refusals are happening. They cite traffic issues and refuse to ply. My question is why do they even ply on roads, when traffic situation is everywhere? @ dsouzaashayne: Rickshaw mafia is rampant at every station, Malad included. Why can’t the cops take action, this is a known fact that rickshaw drivers bully people with refusals. Why should we have to beg for them to ply us around? @ parijatvk: This is a menace which needs to be stopped. BKC public gets screwed everyday and night because of auto- drivers ka masti.

@ AroraGirish: Can the auto mafia or any other mafia survive & thrive without the direct/ indirect support of concerned officials/ leaders.

@ s_ ac_ hi_ n: RCity Mall to Ghatkopar station a distance of around 2 kms but share autos charge is Rs 20 per seat, moreover starting point is within Rcity Mall premises with police constantly present at the location.

@ kunalklt: Fantastic! These crooked guys deserve this, next step they should agree for a destination as majority of them looking for sharing as they make quick money.

@ KamathUrich: Please also check share taxi mess at labour camp Matunga to Matunga station it’s a complete mess, driver are not in uniform they drive rashly no traffic rule is obeyed by them it causes problem to other cars also and increases traffic in area Auto drivers toe the line only at Kurla station Continued from page 01 THE drive seemed to have made the most significant difference at Kurla West station, which saw a few changes, while the situation outside Bandra East station remained the same.

Jogeshwari autowallas continue to refuse fare
Despite strict instructions against refusing fare, the auto drivers outside Jogeshwari station continue to harass passengers. The drivers usually say no to those passengers who want to travel in directions that are congested at that point of time, even though the commuters pay the waiting charges. However, the drivers of share rickshaws don't bother about the traffic, as they overcharge passengers during peak hours.

Social Activist Asad Patel said, "The drivers hardly carry proper ID cards, but if you ask them about it, they will start arguing." Avinash Solanki, who frequently travels to Jogeshwari from Panvel, said, "I literally have to struggle to get a rickshaw outside Jogeshwari station. Atleast four to 10 drivers refuse to go to Lokhandwala."

Meanwhile, outside Malad station, there is no designated rickshaw stand. The drivers have formed unions and they continue to harass passengers. Besides this, long queues of share autos outside the station leads to massive traffic congestion in the area.

Reported by Samiullah Khan

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