Saturday, July 31, 2010

Rickshaw menace in Mumbai

Ask any vehicle owner or a person who does not own a vehicle, what the biggest menace on Mumbai’s roads today is … well apart from the zillion potholes, I’m sure each and every one of then will point their fingers at the ubiquitous rickshaw drivers.

Private vehicle owners, complain that it’s the rickshaw drivers who always break the lanes without giving any signals, stop just about anywhere on the road, again without giving any signals and start suddenly from their parked position, guess what, again without giving any signal! If you try to reason with them regarding this bad driving and not following of traffic rules, invariably they will fight with you using the foulest of language and they always have the other rickshaw drivers rushing to their support. They have absolutely no respect for basic civic sense or courtesy.

Now coming to the plight of the people who are forced to use the service of these princely rickshaw drivers daily. Every time a person gets off a crowded train in Mumbai, the first thing he prays for is that he gets lucky today and at least one rickshaw driver is willing to ferry him home. But alas, if wishes were horses …. Beggars would ride!! The Rickshaws refuse to ply your route as if it’s their right to refuse you every time. I guess they get some sadistic pleasure out of it! And the funniest part is they refuse just about every route, making you wonder why are they even driving a rickshaw? Will they decide where you need to go?

As per the law, they are supposed to ferry you wherever you want and cannot refuse you. But it never happens. Even if you try to forcefully sit inside the auto, after the driver refuses to ferry you, he’ll either give you excuses such as ‘petrol nahi hai’ or he will simply refuse to move. They care a damn even if you threaten to lodge a complaint against them.

Well, the papers scream out everyday, giving numbers for help lines and email addresses for commuters to complaint against such errant rickshaw drivers. But does anything actually happen after you complaint? No! We had a bad experience with a rickshaw driver last week, and like a true blood Mumbaikar wanted to fight back against injustice. So we filed an on-line complaint against the errant driver with his auto registration number, the place and time of incidence. But to date nothing has happened of it!

The Traffic Police as well as the RTO really need to be serious about this rickshaw menace and try to help the commuters who face tremendous difficulty everyday because of this.
The solution to this could be that, the police can post officers during peak hours, at specific rickshaw stands, especially outside railway stations, bus stations, etc and see to it that the rickshaw drivers do not refuse to ferry commuters. Also the RTO should give basic soft skills and civic sense training to all the rickshaw drivers and help them to improve their image.
On the part of commuters, they should make it a point to continue to complaint against errant drivers hoping that at least some of them will be pulled up.

So till the time the authorities take some real strict actions against these errant rickshaw drivers, lets keep the prayers going!

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