Taxis and auto-rickshaws, which went off the city roads for the last two months due to the lockdown, returned to the streets Friday as the government eased restrictions under its ‘Mission Begin Again’.
While there are over two lakh taxis and around 45,000 auto-rickshaws in Mumbai, fewer than 30 per cent of the vehicles hit the road Friday, taxi union leaders said. Most drivers, they added, withdrew in the second half of the day after being stopped by police and imposed a penalty for ferrying passengers who did not fall in the ‘essential category’.
Taxi driver Chand Babu, 52, said he was ferrying a passenger from Shivaji Park to Metro Cinema when the police stopped him near Mahalaxmi temple. “I had a single passenger when the policeman stopped my vehicle saying that they had not received any notification to allow taxis on the road. When the passenger told the policeman that he was heading to his workplace, we were slapped a fine,” Babu said, adding that after dropping the passenger off at Metro Cinema he parked his vehicle for the day.
Pramod Dubey, a taxi owner, said for the first time since the lockdown he had allowed his driver to take the vehicle out. “The driver returned soon afterwards complaining that policemen were stopping vehicles and imposing penalty near Tardeo,” he said.
According to Taxi union leader A L Quardros, several such complaints were received from across the city Friday. “There is no way really that a driver can check on the road whether a passenger is stepping out for essential work or not. The order issued by the government is bizarre. We can only ask drivers to ensure that they aren’t ferrying more than the specified number of passengers and too much luggage,” Quardros said.
After long-distance passenger train services resumed in June, the state government had permitted a limited number of taxis to pick up passengers from important railway stations in the city. However, under its ‘Mission Begin Again’ guidelines, which was rolled out Friday, blanket permission was given to taxis, autos and cab aggregators to ply in the city as a part of essential travel.
Leader of autorickshaw drivers’ union, Shashank Rao, claimed that when the government had issued the order, they were assured that the auto drivers would not be penalised, and instead the passenger, if found travelling without a valid reason, would be fined. “We received several complaints from auto drivers who said they were scared in stepping out. We will approach the transport department for further clarity in the matter,” said Rao.
Meanwhile, cab aggregator Uber stated that it has resumed services in Mumbai for essential travel and only allowing passengers to book UberGo, Premier and UberAuto as mandated by the government. It further advised passengers to carry suitable document as proof of purpose for travel.
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