State Transport minister promises to set up a helpline to register complaints against auto-rickshaw and Taxi drivers

Daily commuters in the Capital were a harassed lot for the second day in a row on Tuesday as the majority of auto-rickshaws remained off the road even as there were reports of stray cases of violence.

With hardly any auto-rickshaws on the road, citizens waited in vain before they used other modes of transport like buses, taxis and Delhi Metro rail to reach their destinations.

“I waited at Dhaula Kuan for an auto-rickshaw for nearly 45 minutes. Finally I hailed a taxi and had to shell out nearly twice the regular fare,” said Priyadarshini Salve, who works at a clinic in Central Delhi.

There were reports of auto-rickshaws being damaged in Mandawali and Mayur Vihar in East Delhi. In Pandav Nagar, three people were arrested for damaging an auto-rickshaw and beating up the driver.

Speaking about the strike, Delhi Transport Minister Arvinder Singh Lovely said the demands of the auto-rickshaw unions were unjustified and the Government could not compromise on law to give in to their demands. The Government would cancel the permits of all three-wheelers that were on strike or were caught over-charging or refusing to accept commuters, he added.

According to Mr. Lovely, more than 25 enforcement teams of the Transport Department monitored the strike at the airport, railway stations and hospitals. “A toll free helpline would be started within a week for registering complaints against auto-rickshaw and taxi drivers. Also, if an individual auto-driver is being harassed despite possessing required documentation, strict action would be taken against the staff concerned,” he added.

However, not all auto-rickshaw drivers participated in the strike. Though few in number, some were spotted ferrying passengers. “I have all my documents in place. Why should I strike? I do not believe in this union business either,” said an auto-driver who was carrying passengers.

Many drivers seemed united on the strike. “We are striking because we want an increase in fares. We are not being paid enough,” said Javed. “Our other demands are that there should be auto-rickshaw stands, less harassment by the traffic police and an end to being ‘challaned’ without reason.”

Non-government organisation Nyayabhoomi secretary Rakesh Agarwal said: “The minimum amount an auto-rickshaw driver can be fined for a single offence is Rs.90 while the maximum is Rs.5,000. If the driver has committed multiple offences, he can be fined even Rs.40,000.”

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a Delhi Traffic Police sub-inspector said: “We prosecute only 50 per cent of those who need to be challaned. In case of minor offences, we usually do not impose penalties as they cannot afford to pay the fines.

Usually drivers are penalised if they refuse to take passengers to a particular destination. This is against the permit rules. They are also penalised for overcharging and misbehaviour.”

“Drivers are also fined if they are found plying auto-rickshaws with licence plates belonging to a different State. Any auto-rickshaw whose licence number ends with the alphabet “J” can be driven only by its owner. These auto-rickshaws are usually sold at concessional rates by the government to increase employment. Anyone excluding the owner found driving auto rickshaws of the “J” category is penalised,” the sub-inspector added

Sobran Singh Rapjput, president of the Bharatiya Tipahiya Chalak Sangh, said, “Our strike was not completely successful. Many auto-drivers accepted passengers despite the strike. We are now planning a hunger strike.”

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