Dr Deepika Sanwalkar’s entry into Pune on Tuesday morning was anything but pleasant. Dr Sanwalkar, who arrived in the city from Ahmedabad, had to face what many Puneities have become accustomed to – high-handedness of autorickshaw drivers. In case of Dr Sanwalkar, she had to step out of an Uber cab and was forced to walk some distance despite an injured leg.
“I had got down from my bus at 11.45 am at Dandekar bridge. As I have been using crutches due to an injury to my leg, I had pre-booked an Uber cab which had come on time,”she said.
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Autorickshaw drivers crowding near bus stops is a common sight across Pune city and Dandekar bridge is no different. However, things started getting ugly, after Dr Sanwalkar boarded the cab, instead of an auto.
“As soon as I got into the cab, one of the autorickshaw drivers started arguing with the cab driver. Apparently, he was angry at him taking over their business. My sole intention of pre booking an Uber cab was my injury which prevents me from travelling in an autorickshaw. Even when I explained the situation to the autorickshaw driver, he was not ready to listen to me,” she said.
Things started to take an ugly turn when the autorickshaw driver picked up a huge stone and started threatening the driver. All this, she said was happening with a traffic police man just metres away from the site.
Amidst this, the cab driver turned towards Dr Sanwalkar and asked her to step down. “The cab driver simply said that with such threats he would not be able to take me. Although I kept on telling him about my condition he did not listen. The autorickshaw driver who was threatening him in turn was very rude to me and said none of the autorickshaw drivers at the stand would give me a ride,” she said.
With no other option in hand, Dr Sanwalkar had to walk some distance before she got into another autorickshaw.
Sanil Bhatia, general manager, Uber, Pune, confirmed the incident had happened and said such incidents are common. “Many of our cars have been physically-damaged and driver partners have been assaulted by the same people,” he said.
Asked about the driver asking Dr Sanwalkar to deboard, Bhatia said the driver had asked her to deboard “as he was afraid that auto drivers might damage the car and it would hurt both him and the rider,” he said.
Although Uber has not filed a criminal complaint about the case, Bhatia said they have reached out to the rider and the driver and assured them of help incase they file a complaint.
Nitin Pawar of the Rickshaw Panchayat said that the incident has been reported to him and he was looking into the matter. “While I condemn this incident I would also like to point out the Uber and other aggregators who are plying intra city cabs are doing so illegally. Action should be taken against them also,” he said.