No Christmas spirit here!

Published: Dec 26, 2011, 08:11 IST | Nivedita Dargalkar |

Bandra auto rickshaw drivers cash in on the festivities; refuse to travel by meter, fleece commuters trying to get to Mount Mary Church

Bandra auto rickshaw drivers cash in on the festivities; refuse to travel by meter, fleece commuters trying to get to Mount Mary Church 
When the cat's away, the mice will play. In the absence of the traffic police and RTO officials at Bandra West, yesterday, errant auto drivers took undue advantage of the Christmas festivities. Fleecing, soliciting and coldshouldering commuters, was the order of the day, set by the drivers for passengers heading to Mount Mary Church.

'Held to ransom' 
Joe Fernandes, who was left stranded after being snubbed by almost all the auto drivers to ply by meter, said, "I'm with my wife and kid. Though the usual fare by meter to the church is approximately Rs 35, today, most of the drivers are demanding Rs 20 per seat. Initially I refused to pay. However, after realising that all drivers in the area were overcharging and refusing to ply by meter, I gave in and travelled to the church seat-wise."

Purti Wadhwa, who had come with a group of friends to be a part of festivities at the church, lashed out against the auto drivers. "We waited for nearly half an hour to find a rickshaw driver who would ply by meter. With no patrolling authorities to our rescue, we had no choice but to pay an exorbitant fare."

Echoing Wadhwa's sentiments, Russel D'souza said, "In the absence of traffic officials to rein them in, these rogue drivers were taking undue advantage of commuters' helplessness and were holding them to ransom."

According to a senior official from Bandra traffic police station, "Two inspectors have been deployed at
the station road to keep a check on the auto drivers. However, the traffic police cannot control each and every driver who solicits passengers, as the number of officers is less in proportion to the size of the

Mirza Baig, ACP (traffic, west zone), said, "Most of the staff has been diverted to the ongoing drive against drink driving, and work till late in the night. Owing to this, the police action against errant auto drivers has taken a backseat."

When contacted A Balachandra, RTO, western region, said in response to the soliciting activities rampant at Bandra (West) railway station, "I will ensure that a joint drive along with the traffic police is soon
carried out at the spot."

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