Varsity and police discuss identification mechanism for autorickshaw drivers

Students on Manipal University campus are cautious about hiring autorickshaw after the suspected gang-rape of a medical student by autorickshaw-borne criminals last week.

Until Friday, autorickshaw was a preferred mode of transport among students for their daily trips between college and accommodation. But not after ghastly incident of the intervening night of Friday and Saturday. “Students will definitely be more cautious while boarding an autorickshaw now. The situation will change only if the police and university take quick action. Students may have to go in groups of two or three in an autorickshaw,” said a former student of the Manipal Institute of Communication.

A woman student at the Manipal University, who did not wish to be named, said students would be more anxious while boarding an autorickshaw henceforth.

But, quite agile to the possible backlash, autorickshaw drivers have started expressing concerns about the peril of painting the entire community with the same brush. Ramesh Kanchan, honorary president of Manipal Autorickshaw Drivers’ and Owners’ Association, insists: “One single incident should not be used to tar the entire autorickshaw drivers’ community.”

Trust

“Autorickshaw drivers have been carrying students safely to their destinations for several decades now. Many students hired autorickshaws by calling on drivers’ mobile phones. This shows the trust the students had in the autorickshaw drivers,” he said.

Cautioning against jumping the gun, he said: “Even in the present case, it has not been proved yet that an autorickshaw driver is involved.”

However, authorities at the varsity are not leaving anything to chance. G.K. Prabhu, Registrar of Manipal University, said the university has asked students to be cautious while boarding autorickshaws. They have also held talks with the Deputy Commissioner and Superintendent of Police on security matters and identifying autorickshaw drivers operating in Manipal. “But a final call on this would have to be taken by the district administration and transport department,” he said.

Students of Manipal varsity remained tight-lipped about the incident purportedly following diktats from the authorities. However, the university has denied issuing any gag order.

A medical student said: “We have decided in our class not to talk to the media on any issue.” An engineering student said they had been discouraged from talking to presspersons or fielding questions from the media.

But Mr. Prabhu said that neither the university nor the heads of institutions had asked the students not to talk to the press. “We cannot do anything if they chose not to speak,” he said. Asked if the students clasped up after feeling terrible about the incident, he said: “That is quite possible”.

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