Mumbai: Traffic cops are of no help at Bandra?
Share autos, which were allowed to operate to ease gaps in public transport and benefit commuters, have today become a law unto themselves. With the recent police crackdown fizzling out, we expose this mafia in our new series. Today: Bandra East
Auto drivers and their tantrums are a legendary Mumbai commuter problem, leaving citizens helpless and angry. Two months after the state transport department put share-auto stand locations along with their fixed rates on their official website, mid-day reporters decided to find out just how successful the move was. Not surprisingly, we found a large number of illegal auto stands dotting the city where the drivers decided the fares.
The team documented illegalities of every kind involving auto-rickshaws — from refusing rides to exorbitant, arbitrary rates. Problems persist at multiple levels and the lack of viable public transport on the feeder routes is a major one. Auto unions questioned about the issue admitted that the illegal auto rackets were flourishing and jugaad autos operated with impunity.
Mumbai Automen's union leader Shashank Rao told mid-day, "We are aware of the issue of illegal autos and have been continuously warning the authorities about them. When we complained around 2012, there were about 20,000 such autos and now the number must have gone up to 30,000. We have been requesting authorities to curb them. Give us a dedicated squad and we will have one of our representatives to identify such vehicles and areas."
Transport department officials said a huge number of auto stands have been mandated by the Regional Transport Authority with a fixed fare structure. Many others have come up due to people's demands, with local politicians and political parties patronising them. "These are illegal stands, but they are opened on local demand. In such cases, we try and legalise them. However, at many other places, the rates are quite absurd and we act on complaints, but there is a genuine issue of enforcement due to lack of staff," a senior transport official said.
We kicked-off our test drive from Bandra East.
Bandra-Kurla Complex is a planned business district, located in Bandra East. It is the most prominent commercial hub in the state after Nariman Point and Cuffe Parade. On a regular basis, hundreds of commuters travel across the stretch but, finding an auto at the end of a tiring day is nothing short of a nightmare. At mid-day's test drive near the Bandra East station auto stand, most auto drivers were found charging customers extra in violation of RTO rules.
When a mid-day reporter posing as a customer asked auto drivers to ply her to Bandra East (Government Colony, BKC and Family Court) in a share-auto, they not only charged her extra but also misbehaved when she argued about the high rates. As per the RTO rates, the fare for each passenger going to Family Court in a sharing system is Rs 11. The auto drivers, however, asked for Rs 20 for each seat, thus making R60 on one trip. For Government Colony, the official rate is Rs 17 yet they still ask for Rs 20. The harassment continues in the presence of traffic police officers standing right at the spot.
Drivers often engage in arguments with commuters who question their fares; many have to wait it out in the heat to find an auto-rickshaw driver who plies by the RTO fare guide
The rates vary depending on the time of the day, too. In the morning, the auto drivers charge Rs 20 to go towards BKC whereas the rates drop to Rs 10 in the afternoon. Similarly, auto drivers in BKC and surrounding areas charge Rs 10 in the morning to go to Bandra station and go up to Rs 20 in the evening when officer-goers return home. If you try to argue, "go to office in the evening" is their response.
During peak hours auto drivers outside Bandra East station refuse to go by the rule book
Due to the crowd for shared autos, the autos end up blocking the way for buses and other private cars. During peak hours, the scene outside Bandra station is too chaotic to even walk through. The auto union at Bandra East is strong enough for the auto driver to unapologetically abuse or threaten passengers who argue with them.
Transport expert Jitendra Gupta said, "The department concerned needs to post ratings at each auto stand so that people are aware of the conditions. It is illegal to ask additional money in share autos. This is in violation of RTO rules. Also, when passengers complain to traffic police at the spot, they hardly provide any help."
Suresh Kumar, 34
'I have been working here for the past five years. Earlier, I used to take autos for R20 per seat but then I realised how they were fooling us. So, it is better to wait in the heat for the bus rather than pay extra to these thieves. On several occasions, I have complained to the traffic police present at the spot but not one of them has made any effort to stop the nuisance'
Shubham Sharma, 27
'I always face harassment whenever I try to take a shared auto from Bandra. Apart from charging extra, they also misbehave with passengers when they argue. In fact, during monsoon, they charge Rs 30 a seat. We also work hard to earn money just like them. The RTO really needs to take steps to stop the harassment'
RTO rates from Bandra East for share-autos
New English School
ICICI Bank Building
Approximate no. of illegal autos across the city
Approximate no. of illegal autos in the city in 2012
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In September 2018, an auto-rickshaw driver was arrested for allegedly kidnapping a teenaged girl with an intention to sexually assault her. The incident took place in Kalyan. When the girl boarded the auto-rickshaw, the accused drove the vehicle towards an isolated place. Sensing danger, the girl jumped out of the auto-rickshaw and escape the clutches of the auto-rickshaw driver. In her complaint, the girl said she feared that the man wanted to rape and molest her. Based on the complaint, the accused was arrested
In August 2018, a journalist lodged a complaint with Borivli police in Mumbai alleging an auto-rickshaw driver masturbated while ferrying her in his auto. In her complaint, she said that after boarding the auto she noticed the driver indulging in obscene actions. The journalist said, "He pulled his pants down and started to openly masturbate in front of me." She claimed there were six men nearby, who saw the driver masturbate, but none came to help her. She then ran away. An FIR was registered against the driver. The case is still underway
In August 2018, a 25-year-old married woman was allegedly kidnapped and raped by an auto-rickshaw driver in a forest area in Ulhasnagar town. The woman, a resident of Raite village near Kalyan and the 30-year-old accused- Mukesh knew each other. When the woman was on her way to a jewellery shop in Ulhasnagar, the accused came in his auto and offered to give her a treat and took her to a restaurant. However, after reaching the eatery, the woman refused to eat or drink anything and told him not to harass her. The accused then offered the woman a drop back home in his rickshaw. However, instead of driving her home on their way back, he took the vehicle to a forest area where he sexually assaulted her. The accused was booked by the police
On the evening of July 13, 2018, traffic constable Minaj Khan was at Lokhandwala in Andheri carrying out routine vehicle and licence check, when she noticed an errant autorickshaw driver headed towards Infinity Mall, trying to evade the check by driving away in a hurry, so much so that he rammed into a parked motorbike. Khan stopped the autorickshaw and asked the driver to show his licence, which upon inspection turned out that it had expired. When Khan asked the auto driver to pay a fine, he flashed a 'media' ID and threatened her, saying not to mistake him as just an auto driver. The driver then snatched the licence, pushed her and tried to intimidate her by driving his vehicle towards her. Just then, passers-by and shopkeepers in the vicinity jumped to her help, stopping the autorickshaw, taking away the keys and catching hold of the driver. Khan, meanwhile, dialled 103 and called for back-up. The driver was booked and arrested
Changing his own appearance and that of his vehicle didn't help this 37-year-old auto-rickshaw driver evade police arrest after he fled with a bag containing 7 tolas of gold left by a passenger. The incident happened on May 15, 2018, when victim Sandip Patil and his family hired two rickshaws from the Lokmanya Tilak Terminus. The accused Sajnath Jayprakash Morya was driving the rickshaw in which Patil was travelling. While getting off at Chembur, Patil didn't realise that he left his bag containing gold in the rickshaw. However, instead of returning it to him, Morya quickly fled from the spot. After the victim filed a complaint with the Govandi police, they traced him to Vishnu Nagar in Chembur and arrested him
In a shocking incident, a 16-year-old orphan girl was raped by an auto driver in March 2018. The girl then jumped out of the auto in an attempt to save her life. The incident occurred near MIDC in Mahape, Navi Mumbai. After raping the girl the diver allegedly tried taking her to another spot. Fearing for her life, the girl jumped out of the auto and suffered several injuries. She was found unconscious by bystanders who thought it was an accident and took her first to a doctor and then a hospital nearby. The police registered a case and multiple teams were formed to nab him
In February 2018, six auto-rickshaw owners from Thane were booked on charges of fabricating the character certificate and seeking auto permits. According to a complaint lodged by officials from the Regional Transport Office, those applying for auto-rickshaw permits are required to provide the character certificates issued by the Deputy Commissioner of Police (Special Branch). However, during verification, it was found that the certificates provided by the six auto-rickshaw owners were fake and had been fabricated. A case under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code was registered and the matter was probed
In an unfortunate incident, a senior journalist Prashant Tripathi who had worked with several national news channels died in a road accident at Kurla on December 14, 2017, because of the negligence and rash driving by an auto driver. The autorickshaw in which Tripathi was travelling rammed into a stationary autorickshaw because the driver was allegedly speeding, grievously injuring the scribe, who later succumbed to injuries. The police booked and arrested the driver, identified as Yasin Mukhtar Shaikh. Tripathi is survived by his wife, a professor at Allahabad University, and two daughters.
An auto driver lost control of his vehicle and rammed into another auto, before crashing into a shop at Subhash Nagar, New Mill Road in Kurla in December 2017. While the passenger in the speeding auto succumbed to his injuries on the way to the hospital, the driver managed to flee from the spot. The police registered an FIR against the driver for causing death by negligence
Ram Mandir police in Mumbai booked a local auto driver for allegedly running a puppy over in November 2017. The incident came to light when a local resident approached the cops about the auto driver who refused to "change course". Post-mortem reports confirmed that the puppy had died on the spot due to injury caused by pressure, which broke its neck and led to its death. The police had registered an FIR in the case
An auto rickshaw ride turned out to be a scary affair for a young Thane resident. The 19-year-old girl was allegedly slapped and molested by the driver of the auto she boarded. The incident took place at Thane in July 2018. Locals in the vicinity caught the accused, beat him up and handed him over to police.
A nine-year-old girl managed to escape from the clutches of a 65-year-old auto rickshaw driver who was trying to kidnap her on April 13, 2017, by jumping out of his moving vehicle in Thane. The child, an Std II student of a school was headed to a shop nearby when the auto driver, her neighbour, called out to her. He told her he would drop her back home but when the girl refused to get into his auto, he dragged her into his vehicle and sped off. The girl saved herself by jumping out of the vehicle. The accused was later arrested
An autorickshaw driver duped a Malad-based actress, Megha Chakraborty on October 2016 with a fake Rs 100 note. The actress was given a Rs 100 'Monopoly' note that she unknowingly accepted from the auto-rickshaw driver. Chakraborty, who originally hails from Kolkata, was travelling in Mumbai. The auto driver could not be traced
A passenger was beaten up by three autorickshaw drivers outside the Ghatkopar station in September 2016. Malesh Gauda (25), who whips up fresh dosas near Vidyavihar railway station, hailed an autorickshaw after work. He had all his cooking utensils with him. The fare for the ride came up to Rs 18. Gauda handed Rs 20 over to the driver, Mudasar Aman Sayyed (31). The driver, however, demanded more money for the cooking utensils. When Gauda refused, an argument broke out between him and the driver. Sayyed was soon joined by two autorickshaw drivers from the vicinity, and the three allegedly began thrashing Gauda. Sayyed also allegedly removed a wiper blade of his autorickshaw and attacked Gauda with it, leaving him with serious injuries. The police arrested two persons for assault
A share autorickshaw driver allegedly thrashed a passenger in Dahisar West in April 2016 over a trivial argument over a fare. Sarjuprasad Sahani (45), a security guard with a private firm in Borivli, took a share autorickshaw at Borivli station to get to his residence, 4 km away from his workplace. On arriving at his destination, Sahani gave the driver, Ramparvesh Chauhan, a Rs 100 note for a fare of Rs 12. Chauhan told him he didn't have the exact change and asked him to fork out another Rs 2 so as to return Rs 90. When Sahani told him he had only Rs 20 left on him, Chauhan began abusing him and allegedly summoned two to three share autorickshaw drivers and together, they beat Sahani till he lost consciousness. Sahani later died in the hospital. The police arrested the driver
Autorickshaws are one of the most preferred public transport in Mumbai. Mumbaikars hop into one to mostly commute short distances as autos prove to be a cheap ride and can make its way through tight traffic and narrow roads. However, incidents of crime such as loot, brawls over fares and even serious crimes like murder and sexual assault have been reported against a few errant auto drivers. We highlight incidents of auto drivers who have committed crimes
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