Last 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.