Saturday, May 28, 2005

Autos, autos everywhere, but none going your way

Autos, autos everywhere, but none going your way

Deccan Herald

Complaints against errant auto drivers and refusal to ply may be filed at the nearest police station or through email, says Traffic DCP Salim.

Be it to work or leisure, travelling in an autorickshaw in Bangalore has become an ordeal for citizens and tourists alike, at all times of the day. The travails are more for women and at night.

With the monsoon that has descended on the city, things have only worsened. Whether you are travelling from M G Road to Jayanagar or from Yeshwantpur to Indiranagar, you are at the mercy of an erratic driver who will first refuse to go where you want to. If he agrees to ply you, he will quote an exorbitant fare on a tampered meter.

Deccan Herald does a reality check on the three-wheeled menace to work through the problem.

“I thought it would help if I told them I was from the press. Instead, the drivers at the busy M G Road-Brigade Road crossing got abusive at the mention of media and a possible police complaint. They said I could be from the ministry for all they care. I was even threatened not to walk that strip of road again,” says Mrinmayee Nair, a media professional, who works on M G Road and has to take an autorickshaw every night to Indiranagar.

Manashi Roychowdhury, working for Progeon, the BPO outfit of Infosys on Bannerghatta Road agrees. She is a resident of First Block, Second Cross, Jayanagar and has to commute to various places both near and far.

“Sometimes I wonder where they want to go. If I want to go to Forum, they say no; they refuse going to M G Road and charge Rs 30 for a distance of one-and-a-half kilometres in broad daylight.”

Complain by email

Redressal booths are yet to be set up, but the traffic department has complaint coupons with every police station, says DCP M A Salim. “Complaints can also be filed through email. These are regularly updated and notices are issued to the erring drivers. We impose fines of Rs 300 for refusals and charging excess fares. But it is a formidable task to put a check on 70,000 auto drivers and this is the predicament of all big cities.”

Mr Salim is hopeful that with compulsory ID cards to be issued within the next three months, such errant behaviour can be brought under control.

When asked if presence of policemen in the vicinity should help, he said: “We have put police pickets on all important junctions. But we cannot cover the entire city with only 2,000 policemen. We do not have police patrol or traffic personnel at night. But passengers can take down the auto number upon being refused and file a complaint at the nearest police station.”

This is impractical, thinks software professional Janani Ramanujam, who lives in Koramangala and travels to work in C V Raman Nagar. “The drivers know that it is not possible for us to go to a police station at night. It is always easier to negotiate a fare than file a complaint. I am also apprehensive about repercussions if I file a complaint and my name is divulged.”

The only way to put a curb on this malpractice is to lodge a complaint, says Mr H G Srinivasa Murthy, General Secretary of Auto Rickshaw Drivers’ Union. “We have issued ID cards and arranged for group insurance for drivers affiliated to our union. It is mandatory for drivers to display their driving licence at the back of the driver’s seat. We know of the limitations in day-to-day monitoring, but passengers can take down the number and lodge a complaint with us. In such cases, membership of the driver stands cancelled, along with all his benefits.”

So, the next time you are refused or charged an exorbitant fare, take down the number and lodge a complaint. It might be inconvenient or even a little messy, but more often than not, it will work. The mail ID of the traffic police is or The Auto Rickshaw Drivers’ Union may be reached at 23421291.


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