Unauthorised autorickshaw stands are proliferating in the city like never before, hampering movement of vehicles and pedestrians.
An apt example is Vyttila junction, where there are five unauthorised stands.
On the north-eastern side of the junction, where the latest illegal stand has come up, a board warns motorists from parking their vehicles anywhere near the stand.
With vendors eating into a good share of the space on the other side of the road, the stand has worsened the plight of road users.
Assistant Commissioner of Edappally Traffic Police P. P. Shams has said that the police will take note of the matter and initiate remedial action.
There have been numerous instances of autorickshaw drivers damaging vehicles parked in public places.
Recently, a journalist was shell-shocked to find two tyres of her car, which was parked near an illegal auto stand in Kundanoor Junction, deflated.
She lodged a complaint with the Panangad Police, giving details such as the registration numbers of the autos parked there.
New stands crop up overnight all along the service roads and junctions in the city.
Autorickshaws are often parked in two rows, blocking virtually half of the road.
A case in point is the busy Chakkarapambu junction. The traffic warden on duty here is a mute witness to the wanton holding-up of traffic by autorickshaw. Such illegal stands on narrow roads and junctions also cause accidents, as they block the view of motorists.
Merchants too are inconvenienced by the indiscriminate proliferation of illegal autorickshaw stands. “Our business nosedived after an illegal autorickshaw stand began operating in front of a row of shops,” said the owner of a shop in Chakkaraparambu on the Vyttila-Palarivattom NH Bypass.
However, commuters are finding it tough to get autorickshaws at pre-paid counters in railway stations and bus stops. This has added credence to the allegation that auto drivers are unwilling to operate at even the enhanced rates fixed by the government and instead operate from illegal stands, with the aim of fleecing passengers.
Interestingly, trade unions decide who all operate from each stand.
Social activist Khalid Mundapilly said he filed a RTI application seeking details of authorised auto stands in Ernakulam after auto drivers got into a scuffle with him when he parked his two-wheeler near the Aluva railway station.
“The reply said there was not a single authorised stand in Aluva. There are about 30 illegal stands. All motorists pay road tax and only government agencies can introduce parking curbs. Auto drivers’ unions do not have any right to claim ownership of public spaces,” Mr. Mundapilly said.
The general secretary of the Ernakulam District Auto Drivers’ Association (CITU), M.B. Semandabhadran said the traffic police must ensure that autorickshaw stands do not pose problems to road users. “A few retired police officials and others have dozens of autos. Their autos and the ones operated by criminal elements are behind most of the problems in Kochi,” he said.
The Regional Transport Authority (RTA) Board had decided a few months ago to finalise a list of autorickshaw stands and the parking capacity of each stand. The Motor Vehicles Department, traffic police, Kochi Corporation, the PWD and town planners have together identified roads which have a width of seven metres or more where stands can be legalised.
“The police submitted their report to the Corporation. It will be placed before the RTA Board for authentication once the Corporation gives its nod to the proposals,” said Ernakulam RTO, B J Antony.
The illegal stands will be terminated once the RTA Board takes a decision.