Over 5,600 autorickshaws are illegally plying in the city defying regulations.

Most autorickshaws operating in the city do not have the mandatory city permit as stipulated by the Motor Vehicles Act. The illegal operation of the public transport vehicles came to the fore when the Motor Vehicles Department checked the validity of the 4,000 auto rickshaw permits that were issued 24 years ago.

The assessment revealed that there were only 1,388 three-wheelers with valid permits. Pulling the illegal ones immediately out of the roads would lead to protests from the passengers as well as the drivers, said B.J. Antony, Regional Transport Officer, Ernakulam.

According to Sec 66 of the Act, “no owner of a motor vehicle shall use or permit the use of the vehicle as a transport vehicle in any public place without obtaining a permit granted or countersigned by a Regional or State Transport Authority or any prescribed authority authorising him the use of the vehicle in that place in the manner in which the vehicle is being used.”

Sec 192 (A) of the Act further prescribes a maximum fine of up to Rs. 5,000 for plying transport vehicles without a valid permit. In case of repeated offences, the maximum punishment prescribed is imprisonment up to one year or with fine up to Rs. 10,000.

The Regional Transport Officer said the department had not acted tough on the illegal autorickshaws fearing that it may cause hardship to the general public who depend on these vehicles. “Barring a few instances of slapping fine, no action was prompted against the vehicles,” he said.

Mr. Antony felt that Kochi needs at least 7,000 vehicles to cater to the needs of the general public. The authorities might have fixed the number of permits at 4,000 considering the passenger requirements in the city two decades ago. It is time to revise it, he said.

The authority will issue permits to 2,612 vehicles in the city soon. The agency will soon hold discussions with other agencies for calibrating the digital auto metres in tune with the new fair structure. Once the processed is finalised, permits will be issued, he said.

Sojan Antony, vice-president of the Ernakulam District Auto Rickshaw Drivers Association, suggested steps for providing permits for at least 7,000 vehicles considering the passenger demand. The plying of autorickshaws without permits should be curbed. The drivers are all in for collecting the prescribed fare. However, the change in fuel price should reflect on the metre charges, he demanded.

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