The Thane traffic police have started a drive against auto-rickshaw drivers who allegedly harass customers. Thane traffic DCP Amit Kale has constituted a ‘special squad’ to root out the alleged irregularities throughout the city. In three days of the crackdown, the squad has fined close to 400 auto-rickshaw drivers for refusing fares, overcharging and harassing customers. The squad has collected Rs 75,000 in fines.
While some auto-drivers refused to run by the metre, several refused short-distance fares. There were also incidents where the pink rickshaws, driven by women, were not allowed to use the auto-stand in congested parts of the city. “We had multiple cases. So we started by making sure that all auto-rickshaw drivers had a traffic police stamped document, declaring their information in the vehicle. However, complaints about flouting of rules were coming to us,” DCP Kale said explaining the need for the squad. “We decided to work at the ground level to root out this issue,” he added.
The squad consists of a police sub-inspector and five constables, directly reporting to the DCP. “They cover different areas daily. They dress in civilian clothes and pose as commuters. As soon as someone refuses them a ride, or asks for a higher fare, they immediately take action,” he said.
The action starts with fining them. “We fine them and also enter them in our database. If we ever get another complaint against them, we shall recommend their names to the RTO to cancel their licences,” Kale said.
The squad decides its target locations, based on complaints. “We have our helplines that people can reach out to in case they are harassed by auto-rickshaw drivers. The squad members pose as consumers. They go to the locations where multiple complaints come from,” Kale said.
In the past three days, more than 350 rickshaw drivers have been fined. “We have collected close to Rs 75,000. More than the money, this is working as a deterrent for rogue drivers,” Kale said.
The squad also helped pink rickshaw drivers to get a place at auto stands. “More than 100 women drivers had approached us that they were being bullied and not allowed to use auto stands near the station, Gaondevi, meadows and other important places. Our squad checked the situation on the ground and managed to put a stop to bad behavior. Now, in these places, women drivers will not be harassed, we have been assured.”
“We have so much trouble finding rickshaws, especially at night. Now, at least, they will be scared that we could be cops and thus not say no to us,” said Mayur Phadnis, a resident of Louiswadi, Thane. In 3 days, squad in plainclothes has penalised 400 auto-rickshaw drivers, collected Rs 75,000 in fines