It’s an ‘Auto’matic reaction

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401935073_de4c5d9b65_mLast year (or maybe in was in early 2009), the Mumbai Road Transport Office (RTO) announced a way to curb errant cab/autorickshaw drivers. It asked consumers to report badge numbers of the guilty drivers anonymously (on postcards, no less) to the RTO so that action could be taken for refusing to ply.

The issue in Mumbai is that these transporters refuse  customers more than they agree to ply . Often the destination is too close. Or it is too far. Or too much traffic. Or no return fare. Or their favourite excuse — they don’t want to go.

It doesn’t matter where you stay. I live in Andheri West and my office in Andheri East. Distance-wise it is 7 kilometres but traffic and congestion-wise, it takes me an hour, in the least. In rickshaw-land, Andheri east is an absolute no-no.

Of course that isn’t the rickshaw’s fault but every morning I have to stop myself from from cursing them to hell and back because I have to go through at least 10 on some day and none on others.

Most just swing by, not even glancing at you and the few that stop disgustingly click their tongues and  zoom off. There is absolutely no scope to get their badge numbers. The few that I have actually asked drove off so quickly that if I hadn’t pulled back hand, I would be an arm short today. Some even threatened me for asking their for badge numbers!  I judiciously took down the rickshaw numbers but turns out upto 10 (!!) drivers share an autorickshaw and its relevant permit.

Turns out people taking autos from anywhere in Mumbai to anywhere in Mumbai face this problem. In fact, all you need to say, in a public gathering, is “three autos refused today to come here,” and I guarantee, at least two voices will chime in saying, “me too.”

There have been days when after sitting in an auto, he has refused to ferry me further. Even a threat of calling the police to the auto did not deter him. I sometimes wonder where do they get such arrogance? Tomorrow if we actually stopped flagging them, wouldn’t they suffer more than us. Because we have seen that when those two days when MNS threatened the autorickshaw drivers and they kept off the road and Mumbai rejoiced at the reduced congestion. So who will really suffer I wonder.

Some days ago I ran into a rickshaw driver who saw me flailing autos like a complete mad woman. As he approached me, I did not ask him but just jumped into the auto, and very aggressively said, “Andheri west!” To his credit, he did not say anything and started homeward. After I cooled down some, he asked me if I had been waiting for long. I almost had a tantrum. But he was a nice man and heard me out and even tried to reason with me saying that why they said no etc.

He even offered me to give  me his number and that I could call him whenever I liked. But towards the end of this ride, he asked me another strange question.  “Do you think they say no to you because they are Biharis and you aren’t?” I almost jumped up in shock. There was this mentality too?

Oh dear ..

I do occassionally (really rarely though) feel bad for these drivers because, after all, they drive on roads I gave up on long ago. But I keep wondering if that scheme did ever work. And what was the reaction of cab drivers to this scheme? Anybody has any idea?

I have to add here that despite all these complaints, I know that public transport in this city is still better than most other cities in the country but unfair is unfair. At least in Mumbai you do not have to negotiate for them to use the tariff meter.

Picture courtsey

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2 responses »

  1. Hey there Bluespirit !! I have lurked for a long time here, commenting for the first time.

    Has the situation in Mumbai gone so bad that RTO had to issue that order?? I lived in Andheri E and I remember what a nightmare it was to get auto to go to west. I think these guys prefer business locally sometimes, in which case they should sport a big banner that would indicate ” Local Only”. And we can jump autos from area to area 🙂

    I guess the Bihari – non Bihari theory cannot be generalized. I once hailed an auto to go from Borivali to Andheri, this was the day “Our” Raj was arrested in Oct 2008 and no Auto driver was ready to go that far as there were news of autos being burnt etc, and the one who agreed to take me was a non Maharashtrian, i guessed he was from UP from his accent. A friend of mine had similar experience. I am so thankful that some people still see beyond the communal differences and believe in duty.

  2. Hey, thanks for delurking (though didn’t think I had any lurkers). Yup, most generalisations don’t work. Every day I find one (albeit the 10th or 11th) who is ready to ferry me and I am always thankful, blessing him and trying not to take out my anger on him. The local only suggestion is a cool one, though these days only calling someone a local has become a dicey thing to say. 🙂

    The order came out because I guess it was rising as a problem. One of my offices was at Mahim and even there I never got cabs to take me to Bandra (where I could take a rick) so it was the same story all over again.

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