To address the issue of safety of passengers and complaints of overcharging and misbehaviour against auto-rickshaw drivers, the Transport Department of Delhi Government has decided to use the services of the Delhi Traffic Police, the Delhi Integrated Multi Modal Transit System and the Police Control Room to evolve a mechanism whereby harassed commuters would be able to report any incident through the emergency buttons provided in the auto-rickshaws. Besides, a new zone-wise colour scheme will also be introduced for auto-rickshaws to ensure better compliance with rules.

“We have decided to go ahead with the implementation of the emergency alarm button scheme. Once the passengers press the button, a message would be flashed to the DIMTS operated control room at ISBT Kashmere Gate from where the Police Control Room would be alerted. We have convened a meeting with Additional Commissioner of Police (Traffic) Anil Shukla on Monday to discuss this and various other issues,” said Delhi Transport Minister Ramakant Goswami.

Mr. Goswami said security of passengers is a key issue for the Government. “There is also a provision for providing various helpline numbers on the auto-rickshaw body. But we have discovered that many operators have been putting up advertisements over these thus defeating the entire exercise.”

To correct this, the Minister said the Transport Department has issued a notification which clearly states that under the permit conditions of auto-rickshaws such placement of advertisements is not allowed and those doing so would be dealt with firmly. He denied that the move was aimed at countering the ad campaign unleashed through auto-rickshaws by the Aam Aadmi Party.

The Minister said as the number of auto-rickshaws in the city has been going up every since the Supreme Court gave permission to introduce more, the need to regulate them in a more professional manner was felt. “So we have also decided to put coloured strips of tentatively 10 different types on these autos to segregate them into different zones. This would also help in regulating how they ply and also bring down the cases of refusal to carry passengers.”

Already, he said, the number of auto-rickshaws in Delhi has gone up from 55,000 to over 70,000. “We have allotted about 18,000 new permits to auto-rickshaws in the general category but the off take has been slower in the reserved categories. Yet we are hopeful that the number of total autos would go up to around 1 lakh soon. We are also appealing to the Supreme Court to remove the restriction on the number of auto-rickshaws that ply in the city.”

With the increase in the numbers, the Minister said the premium on autos in the black market has dropped from around Rs.6.50 lakh to virtually nothing. “Conditions like allotment to only those with permits and licences and five-year moratorium on sale has worked wonders for us,” he said.

But there is still a long way to go, Mr. Goswami said, adding that complaints about overcharging or refusal continue to come in despite the recent auto fare hike. “We are working on this and the Traffic Police and the Transport Department would work in tandem to prosecute the offenders and ensure serious punishment – including cancellation of permits and impounding of vehicles.”

More In: Delhi