Autocracy

 Sunil Thapliyal |  2015-06-21 21:00:32.0  |  New Delhi

Autocracy

Rash driving, misbehaving with passengers, refusal to go, refusal to ply with the meter on, overcharging and breaking the traffic rules are the general characteristics of Delhi auto drivers. More on that if you are alone, be careful, you could be a victim of road rage and an unruly auto driver can abuse, thrash or even assault you in broad <g data-gr-id="100">day light</g>. Even the reinforcement agencies are feeling helpless to deal with the <g data-gr-id="89">auto-cracy</g> in the national capital.

One such incident that took place on May 16, a day before the Delhi chief minister allowed auto drivers the legal option to refuse customers, a group of auto drivers outside Malviya Nagar metro station beat up a business analyst working in a Gurgaon multinational company when he protested their refusal to ply by the meter. Mayank Aggarwal was punched and kicked by a group of about 15 auto drivers when he tried to inform police that he was being overcharged. Even the <g data-gr-id="144">police men</g> are not safe with such unruly auto drivers. On May 22, a police constable posted at the Sarojini Nagar police station was attacked by an auto driver when asked to remove his vehicle from a no-parking zone. Another incident a constable posted at the Sarojini Nagar police station was attacked by an auto driver when asked to remove his vehicle from a no-parking zone.

Anand Vihar
On May 17, when Delhi government was conducting “auto-<g data-gr-id="133">samwad</g>” with auto drivers, on the same day an old lady who was struggling to board the bus to reach home from Anand Vihar terminal, found herself helpless. She was requesting people to help her to get the bus, but all her efforts remained unnoticed as no one was bothered to take the pain. At the same <g data-gr-id="139">time</g> a journalist who was observing her came forward to help her. He spoke with her family members over the phone, who requested him to hire an auto for her. The old lady had just Rs 30 with her at that point, her family asked her to hire an auto and they would pay the money at home after she would reach there.

<g data-gr-id="142">Dilnawaz</g> Pasha, a journalist with a prominent news agency, shared this incident on his Facebook wall. He further narrated the story, “We asked numbers of auto drives to go, but none of them were ready to go by the meter. There were around 20-25 auto drivers who simply refused to go even after seeing the old lady in trouble. Later an auto driver finally agreed to ply with the meter, but he was hesitating to go when he came to know that he will get the fare only after he will drop the old lady at her home.  After seeing his dilemma, I just asked him the approx fare and paid him the money. I also went with the old lady to ensure that she would <g data-gr-id="146">reach at</g> her home safe. Later, when I was sure that she will reach her home safe, I got down from the auto,” wrote Pasha in his post.

New Delhi railway station and Metro station
“It is a common scene at New Delhi railway station and <g data-gr-id="138">metro</g> station where these drivers could be seen forcing the commuters to board their autos. If someone refuses to get into their autos, they prohibit other auto drivers from taking to his/her destination. The <g data-gr-id="136">epicentres</g> of such incidents are metro stations and the malls in the city, where auto drivers crowd the area and keep shouting at the top of their voice to get passengers. The auto drivers would generally block their way and compel them to board it. Instances of auto drivers trying to outsmart each other to woo commuters and in the process entering into fights among themselves are quite common,” said Geeta Bhatia, a <g data-gr-id="122">commuter</g>.

Outer gates of city metro stations are always a mess, auto off zone added more trouble for commuters. These gates and roads are occupied by private vehicles as well as taxis and autorickshaws. The auto drivers deliberately block the roads to stop way of other auto drivers.
Commuters complained that auto drivers create a nuisance to force their will. “It is really a pathetic situation. I was about to hiring an auto when other auto drivers started shouting and forcing me to board their vehicle. They were almost forcing me to go with them and were trying to grab me. It seems that policemen have no control over these drivers,” said Vikas Sharma, a daily commuter.

AIIMS/ Safdarjang Hospital
It’s a common sight outside any hospital in Delhi where auto drivers refuse to take you to your destination or <g data-gr-id="134">donot</g> go by the meter installed or over charge from commuters. “My sister was admitted in the hospital and I live in Laxmi Nagar. We had to commute <g data-gr-id="131">everyday</g> from Laxmi Nagar to Safdarjang hospital via auto. My sister was admitted in this hospital for more than four <g data-gr-id="129">days</g> but we did not find even a single auto driver who was ready to ply by the meter to take advantage of patients’ poor health. Patients and their families are not in a position to counter them at that point and they are easily exploited by the auto drivers”.

Even after the assurance given by the Delhi government and transport department to curb the menace of auto drivers in Delhi, commuters are left at the mercy of unruly auto drivers across the city. They have turned as extortionists and exploited the <g data-gr-id="116">commuters</g> when they need to <g data-gr-id="141">serves</g> them as their top priority. The situation became worse for the commuters after Delhi government restricted Delhi traffic police’s special powers to control errant autorickshaw drivers. There seems to be a visible increase in problems faced by commuters after this step.

Several complaints have been lodged by the passengers on the traffic helpline number 011-42400400 <g data-gr-id="111">everyday</g>. “Passengers call us to complain against the highhandedness of the auto drivers. Every day we used to get around 50-100 complaints on an average that is too of overarching and denied to ply with <g data-gr-id="109">meter</g>,” said a helpline official on the condition of anonymity.

Last month, the Delhi government had decided to 
curtail the powers of Delhi traffic police to impound autos and taxis for minor violations including refusal to take a passenger, driving without uniform, public service vehicle (PSV) badges. The demand for curtailment of this power was a long standing one from the auto driver unions, which are regarded as one of the AAP’s most loyal vote bank. There are roughly 80,000 autos in Delhi.
“Auto drivers charged exorbitant amounts after Delhi Transport Corporation buses went on strike. This harassment of the common people is known to the AAP volunteers and leaders, who claim to be in constant touch with them,” said Rohan, a <g data-gr-id="195">commuter</g> in Mandi house metro station.


"Nothing, I repeat nothing, angers me as much as the attitude of Delhi’s auto drivers. They have no etiquette at all. Commuting by auto in the Capital is a tragedy in itself. I am deeply troubled. Does the Aam Aadmi Party plan to do anything about this? Moushumi, Delhi.


"The entire fraternity of auto drivers in Delhi refuse to go by the meter, it seems! Even if they do, they show a reduced reading if one travels at higher speeds. At low speeds, they show a higher reading. So I prefer to go on a pre-determined fare. Can’t take a risk in this city," Ashwani Dut, Delhi


"Auto drivers don’t use fare meters but cite different reasons, such as ‘meters get damaged every second day’, ‘they cannot withstand the bumpy roads’ and ‘the batteries aren’t sufficiently charged’. After a heavy day’s work, I am left with no energy to fight,' Varun Garg, Delhi.


"This auto driver at Mayapuri agreed on a fare and did not switch on his electronic meter. Half way through I prompted him to turn it on to which he blatantly started shouting on me and threatened me to stop arguing or he will drop me midway. He left me helpless, Rahul Jain, Delhi.


"The auto drivers in Delhi have no manners absolutely. They think they are too smart to consider <g data-gr-id="418">themeselves</g> to be the boss of the city. In no way are they convinced on going by the meter. They are ruining the way public transport functions in Delhi. I hate going by the auto," Arjun Singh, Delhi.

Sunil Thapliyal

Sunil Thapliyal

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