Mumbai: The menace of the autorickshaw mafia at Bandra and the adjoining areas is well-known. The eastern side of Bandra station is one of the key points of the city, as it connects the western suburbs to the industrial and business hub of the Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC) and Kurla. Commuters say their train ride is less gruelling than the ordeal of finding an autorickshaw this side.
Autorickshaw unions rule the roost here and commuters are charged as much as thrice the minimum fare. A group of regular commuters has complained to the local traffic police and also requested the Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) for pressing feeder buses into service on some routes.
Ramesh Naik, 47, a software firm employee in the BKC, has urged officials of civic bodies to resolve the issue at the earliest. Naik claimed he met H-ward officials, who said it was the responsibility of the traffic police to solve the problem.
During peak hours, autorickshaw drivers charge as much as Rs 50 per seat to the BKC, even though the fare should be between Rs 15-25. Marketing professional Sayali Singh said there is no price-marker, drivers charge whatever they feel like, especially during rush hour.
“BKC is not well-connected by public transport. We have limited bus services and some offices provide pick-ups and drops. The rest are left with no choice but to deal with the whims and fancies of autorickshaw drivers,” said Singh.
However, a member of the local autorickshaw union, Ganesh Sawant, denied these allegations. “At times we charge more because from BKC, often we have to come without a return fare. BKC to Kurla is a long stretch and more fuel is consumed.”
The BEST has been operating feeder routes in many pockets of the city to ensure that commuters can avail of point-to-point bus service. Several regular commuters have requested the undertaking for similar services in this area too.
Entrepreneur Sachin Rao has written to the BEST on this matter. “I am a resident of Oshiwara. The introduction of BEST buses has kept the autorickshaw mafia in check over there. If buses are pressed into service here, it will have a similar effect,” he wrote.
BEST officials have said they have received requests for new bus routes between Bandra East and the BKC, but will decide only after assessing the total number of commuters who travel.
“There are demands from not just BKC but also other areas. In the next three months, more than 400 buses will be pressed into service. The routes are yet to be specified, but if there is a genuine demand, then we will definitely roll out services,” said a senior BEST official.