By: Sumedha Grover
Growing acrimony between the auto-rickshaw unions and private cab operators has only added to the woes of commuters in the city.
There have been incidents of auto-rickshaw threatening cab drivers against picking up commuters from traffic hubs in the city that leave the passenger with only two choices: submitting to the “overcharging autorickshaw drivers” or remaining stranded while waiting for a bus.
Over the last year, private cab service providers have gained considerable market share in Pune’s transport system. The auto-rickshaw unions, which are wary of cab services eating into their business, have staged two strikes in the last two months, one solely against the private cab service providers.
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S Bohra, a city resident, had to wait for an hour at the Gunjan Theatre bus stop at Ahmednagar with his wife and two children as their cab driver was threatened into leaving. “The incident happened in February. We had a considerable amount of luggage and two very young children. It wasn’t feasible to take an auto, so I called a cab. Once the auto drivers had scared our cab driver away, they started quoting absurd prices. I refused to give in to such blackmail and finally called someone from my family to pick us up,” he recounted.
The harassment doesn’t stop here. For about four months now, the auto unions have banned the private cab operators including Ola, Uber, Wings from entering the Pune Railway Station premises. This means a passenger has to carry his luggage outside the station premises, about 150 to 200 metres from the main gate, before he can board a cab. “This is ridiculous. To avoid arguing with rickshaw drivers, I booked a private cab, but I was surprised when I was asked by the cab driver to come opposite the multi-storey parking. It’s almost 200 metres and I had to cross the busy road with three heavy bags in my hand,” said Pravin Gangarde, a resident of Shivajinagar.
An officer with the Government Railway Police (GRP) said that in December 2014, there was a big fight among the auto-rickshaw and cab drivers, which led a couple of cabs being damaged. The auto-rickshaw union then met the RTO and took a no-entry order for private cabs in the station premises.
According to Jitendra Patil of the RTO, tourist cabs can operate in the city with required licences and tourist carriage permissions, but private cab companies can’t claim and advertise that they are providing regular “Radio Taxi” services using these cars.
Officials said that a proposal to permit “Radio Taxis” in the city has been pending with the state government for six years.