December 3, 2014 1:41:16 am
By Rohit Alok
The traffic police has started deploying officers in civil clothes across the city to specifically penalise autorickshaw and taxi drivers who refuse to ply short distances. Senior officers said the recently-adopted tactic has proven to be effective in the traffic police’s drive against errant auto and taxi drivers.
“We began this initiative 15 days ago. We deployed one woman police constable and one man constable from each traffic police chowky in civil clothes. They would approach autorickshaw or taxi drivers and ask them to take them to nearby areas. If the drivers refused, they were taken to the concerned chowky and penalised,” said Dr B K Upadhyay, Joint Commissioner of Police (Traffic).
According to the Maharashtra Motor Vehicle Rules (MMVR), a fine of Rs 100 can be levied on an auto or taxi driver if he or she refuses to ply a customer. “On November 22, around 5 pm, I was penalised for not plying a short distance to VP Road from Mumbai Central station. I tried explaining to the officer that I did not have fuel, but he refused,” said taxi driver V Singh, who operates in the Mumbai Central area.
Upadhyay said the police were focusing on crowded areas outside suburban railway stations, where most of such incidents take place. “We don’t have a sound public transportation system. Some travellers depend on taxis and auto rickshaws to take them to their destinations. Drivers are breaking the law by refusing to ferry them,” he added.
The idea of enforcing traffic rules and penalising offenders in plainclothes was initially applied for all violators. However, this ended up causing more inconvenience than benefits.
“Most of the violators would end up with an argument with the officer, mainly because they refused to believe that the plainclothesmen were indeed police officers. This would often create a commotion and, more importantly, impede the work of the officer on duty,” Upadhayay said. He clarified that his officers are permitted to carry out their job in civilian clothing.
According to the police, while enforcing the drive, uniforms will not act as a deterrent for auto or taxi drivers, and there will be no long-term benefits as the drivers will simply look around for uniformed policemen before refusing a passenger.
“If we were in our uniforms, the drivers would oblige but not learn a lesson. By this method at least, we can create an impact,” said S P Patil, police inspector with the Byculla traffic division.
Senior police inspector A A Sheikh of the Colaba traffic division, admitted that though the tactic is unique and a success, there is a deficit of officers in his division to regularly implement the initiative — given the heavy traffic in his jurisdiction.
“Three to four persons are inadequate to carry out this operation in a place like south Mumbai. Penalising errant auto and taxi drivers is necessary, but it can’t be enforced regularly, especially around the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, where a majority of these violations are reported,” Sheikh said.
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