G. Anand

The police say hirer-driven taxis are being used for criminal activities

There are 19 rent-a-car agencies in the city

Agencies asked to insist on identity proof

Thiruvananthapuram: To prevent misuse of hirer-driven taxis for sabotage and criminal activities, the police are inspecting the rent-a-car agencies in the city.

Deputy Commissioner, Law and Order, N. Gopalakrishnan said there were 19 self-proclaimed rent-a-car agencies in the city.

However, none of them had the permit to rent taxis to hirers for self drive under the Rent-a-Cab Scheme laid down in the Central Motor Vehicles Act.

He said an increasing number of hirer-driven taxis were being used for criminal purposes, including gang-related killings and smuggling of illicit spirit.

In North India, there had been instances of hirer-driven taxis being used for terrorist purposes.

This month, the Deputy Commissioner called a meeting of rent-a-car agencies in the city. The police asked them not to rent vehicles to those who did not furnish authentic proofs of identity. They should inform the local police if anyone rents a taxi after 10 p.m. or if such a hirer-driven vehicle is involved in any accident.

The agencies should maintain a register of all their transactions, including the details of their clients.

P. Biju, a tourist taxi service operator, said no person in the city had the Central government permit to operate a hirer-driven taxi service. The law insists that the applicant for such a permit should own a minimum 50 vehicles, at least half of them air-conditioned.

The licencee should have branch offices in at least five cities. His or her offices should be expansive with cloakroom, locker, reception, toilet, garage and workshop. Hirer-driven taxi cars should have tourist-taxi registration plates. The only allowance is that the drivers need not possess a tourist-taxi driver’s badge.

Making money

However, scores of persons lease out private vehicles on the sly without observing any of these norms. Maruti 800 cars are leased out for at less than Rs.600 a day and Toyoto Innova vans for Rs.1,500 a day. The clients are mostly teenagers and sometimes criminals. There are individuals who lend their expensive cars to private persons, including marriage parties, for high rates. For instance, a businessman in the city charges Rs.12,000 a day for his private Mercedes-Benz. Expensive cars with eye-catching registration numbers are illegally used as taxis. The police rarely check such vehicles thinking that they are owned by VIPs.

The police said a set of corrupt government officials and criminal elements operated cars as tourist taxis without permit. They source vehicles from individuals for their daily operations.

Clients often cheat rent-a-car agencies by refusing to pay the rent, issuing false cheques or abandoning the vehicle after misuse.