Monday, January 11, 2010

Autorickshaw driver asking for more? Make him pay

Autorickshaw driver asking for more? Make him pay

The increasing number of complaints against autorickshaw drivers and the need to monitor their behaviour on city roads have forced the city police to hold training programmes for them. Deputy commissioner of police (traffic-west) Panduranga H Rane speaks to Soumya Menon on what the public can do to rein in erring auto drivers

Soumya Menon



What kind of cases are usually registered against autorickshaw drivers?
The traffic police usually register cases against autorickshaw drivers for offences that fall under the Motor Vehicles Act. These offences include rash and negligent driving, drunk driving, signal jumping, demanding excess fare, refusing to take a commuter, not possessing a valid driving licence, not having a display card and not wearing uniform. We fine them at first, and if they repeat the offence, we cancel their licence. Cases of misbehaviour with the public, besides sex rackets involving auto drivers, are usually handled by the law-and-order police.

How are you tackling problems created by autorickshaw drivers?
A recent case involving an autorickshaw driver and his associate had become a big concern for the city police. The two had taken a woman to a deserted spot and attempted to molest her. That case was handled by the law-and-order police. The city police also face a lot of problems whenever autorickshaw drivers go on strike. Taking all this into account, the traffic police have launched a training programme for autorickshaw drivers in the city – starting on Saturday. The six-month programme will be conducted on a daily basis at all the police stations in the city. In a duration of four hours, it will cover all aspects of on-the-road behaviour – including violations and rash driving. They will also be counselled on how to behave with customers, especially women. On an average, at least 15 lakh people travel by autorickshaw in the city everyday, and it is the driver's responsibility to ensure that the passenger is safe. In 2009, 1,88,942 cases were registered against autorickshaw drivers. Of these, 20,650 refused to take passengers to their destinations, 11,562 demanded excess fare, 1,626 had no display card and 39 had tampered autorickshaw meters. Besides these, many have been caught for speeding, jumping signals, drunk driving and rash driving.

How can auto drivers help cops?
The training programme also aims to bring about a good relationship between police personnel and autorickshaw drivers. Considering that they are on a 24-hour beat and have the maximum contact with the public, autorickshaw drivers are a good source of information. If the driver notices anything suspicious, all he has to do is inform the nearest police station. Not only does this speed up investigation into crimes, it also helps prevent untoward incidents before they happen.

If a customer has a problem with an autorickshaw driver, is he encouraged to approach the traffic policeman at a signal junction? How will the officer handle it?
Absolutely, the customer has to do just that. If a traffic officer is not present at the signal, he can note down the vehicle and DL number of the autorickshaw driver and send a complaint – online or telephonic – to the traffic police. The automated complaint system has helped the traffic police as well as the public. It works faster, and action is taken almost immediately. Once we receive the complaint, we file a case against the driver and fine him. To lodge complaints, the public can either dial 080 - 25588444/555 or 080 - 22943030/3131, or email it to addlcptrafficbcp@gmail.com. The traffic police website, www.bangaloretrafficpolice.gov.in, has email IDs of all the inspectors in the city.

When it comes to dealing with autorickshaw drivers, what is the biggest problem traffic police officers face?
Auto drivers' unions. Even if we file the smallest of cases, they arrive at the scene and try to stop us from taking action. Pre-paid autorickshaws that you find stationed at bus stands are also a big menace, because they try to cheat bus passengers. We can control the situation at railway stations to a point, but nothing much can be done at bus stands.

How do the traffic police check if an autorickshaw has a faulty meter?
Once we receive a complaint, we identify the autorickshaw concerned and send the meter to the Weights and Measurements Department at the RTO for a thorough checking. All the autorickshaws are registered with us. We have an extensive list of autorickshaw drivers and owners in each city area. If anybody is found to be driving with a valid licence, he is booked immediately. We do monitor the activities of auto drivers.

Do you have any safety tips for the public?
The public shouldn't fear anybody, and definitely not autorickshaw drivers. Instead of succumbing to their demands for extra fare, they should inform the police immediately. Women passengers should be extra cautious. The moment they notice the autorickshaw driver behaving indecently, they should force him to stop the vehicle and inform the police. Noting down the vehicle number is a must. Autorickshaw passengers are also advised to have all police control room numbers in their phone book. You never know when you may need them.

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