Mumbai: Kashinath Sonavane, 58, his wife and their 10-year-old specially abled grandson soaked in sweltering heat while struggling to find an auto-rickshaw in front of the Kurla station (west side) on Monday. The same plight is lived by scores of commuters on a daily basis as some unruly auto-rickshaw drivers brazenly refuse to ply short-distances and even if they reluctantly agree, they ask for mind-boggling fares while denying to charge as per meters.
The Free Press Journal has revived its campaign against refusal to ply (RTP) from October 18. In recent drives, this newspaper highlighted the arduous task of finding cabbies ready to accept short fares around prominent locations of south Mumbai. On Monday, the FPJ took the campaign a step ahead and checked the issue's ground reality by visiting key locations such as Mulund, Ghatkopar and Kurla stations, and Lokmanya Tilak Terminus. A tough day helped this newspaper realise the high-handed behavior of some rickshaw drivers. In the case of Sonavane's grandson, sheer apathy was on display too.
Auto drivers refuse to accept short-distance rides
During the campaign, the FPJ approached more than 80 auto drivers, but 60 of them outrightly refused to ply short-distances according to the meter, demonstrating a persistent issue plaguing the city. Just 11 drivers agreed to comply with the regulations, while the remainder offered excuses like refuelling or heading for breakfast. Passengers are often compelled to walk considerable distances to find a rickshaw willing to take them to their destination, and drivers often set their own rates, acting in an unruly manner. Ajit Sharma (54), a frequent commuter, lamented that illegal parkingthese errant rickshaw drivers are essentially looting passengers.
FPJ's Kamal Mishra taking to a rickshaw driver in Mumbai | Salman Ansari
Furthermore, some errant drivers frequently engage in illegal parking, causing traffic congestion and creating obstacles for pedestrians. Ubedu Rahman, a Kurla-based businessman, said that illegally parked rickshaws often obstruct the road and disrupt traffic flow. Similar chaotic scenes played out at the Ghatkopar station where illegal parking not only blocks vehicular movement but also hinders passengers entering and exiting the station. Despite all the odds, Ghatkopar resident Surendra Shah took time to appreciate the FPJ's campaign against RTP. “The drive continues to be a beacon of hope for Mumbai's commuters, shedding light on these pressing issues and advocating for better practices in the city's transportation sector,” he remarked.