PASSENGERS who alight at the Bhumkar Chowk in Wakad on National Highway 4 have, by now, become accustomed to the rather “boisterous” welcome they get every day. Bhumkar Chowk is the gateway to various areas like Pimpri-Chinchwad, Hinjewadi, Baner and Balewadi. Passengers who arrive at the chowk have to deal with the acute problem of last mile connectivity. While public transport options are few and far between, most autorickshaw drivers seem keen to take the customers for a royal ride.
Due to its strategic location, passengers who travel from Mumbai, Surat and Ahmedabad often get down at Bhumkar Chowk. On an average, almost 40 buses stop here every hour, with the number going up during peak hours.
Aksh Gunjaria, who travelled from Ahmedabad to Bhumkar Chowk on Saturday morning, found it difficult to deal with local autorickshaw drivers. “I stay about 7 km from Bhumkar Chowk, yet autorickshaw drivers started demanding Rs 250 as fare for that distance. It is a well-known fact that autorickshaw drivers don’t ply by meter in Pimpri-Chinchwad, but this is daylight robbery,” he said.
To add to his travails, Gunjaria failed to get a ride on either Ola or Uber cabs, with several drivers cancelling the trip. “I booked a cab twice, but the drivers cancelled the trip,” he said.
Gunjaria had to walk about 200 metres in the scorching sun before the driver of an app-based taxi service accepted his fare. “The trip cost me just Rs 50, as against the Rs 250 demanded by the autorickshaw drivers,” he said.
Aslam Sheikh, a cab driver, claimed that autorickshaw drivers often resort to stone pelting if they try to pick up passengers at Bhumkar Chowk. “… it is best to avoid confrontation with the autorickshaw guys,” he said.
Incidentally, Bhumkar Chowk, a busy traffic intersection, always has police presence. But the police personnel deployed here seem oblivious to the misbehaviour of autorickshaw drivers. When queried on the issue, a constable manning the signal said the police have not received any complaints from the public about it.