Almost immediately after The Free Press Journal reported on how autorickshaw drivers were fleecing commuters as public transport buses are not plying, the traffic control wing of the Thane (rural) Police swung into action and launched a crackdown on errant auto drivers on Thursday.
In the first phase of the relaxation of the lockdown, rickshaws have been allowed to ply with only two passengers, to ensure physical distancing. While some auto drivers operating on the share service route, in a bid to compensate their losses, were forcing passengers to pay for the third and even the fourth (sitting beside the driver) seat, others are openly violating the distancing rule.
“Special squads were deputed at strategic locations - especially on share auto routes. Till 5 pm, we had booked 465 auto-drivers for various offences. 140 of the 465 auto drivers were caught overcharging and ferrying more than two passengers. The drive will continue until we drill sense in the minds of such careless auto drivers,” said Senior Police Inspector (Traffic) Anil Pawar.
The vehicles were impounded and the drivers were slapped with monetary fines for violating traffic rules and defying the Disaster Management and Epidemic Acts. As part of their awareness campaign, traffic police also asked the auto drivers and other motorists to follow precautionary measures, including insisting on passengers wearing masks and sanitising their vehicles after each trip.
Meanwhile, commuters from the coastal areas of Uttan, near Bhayandar, have demanded resumption of MBMT bus services, with a trimmed timetable.