'Have to pay hafta to cops' is airport auto drivers' latest trick
By: Bipin Kumar Singh
THE city's auto drivers are a creative lot. For, how else would you explain their coming up with a constant stream of imaginative, believable ways to dupe the gullible passenger?
The latest technique used by the drivers is to charge extra from passengers going to or coming from the international airport to compensate for an alleged bribe that they have to pay policemen to let them operate from there.
Rickshaws at the auto stand at the Mumbai airport
Auto rickshaw drivers cannot pick up passengers from the departure and arrival gates of the Sahar airport.
They are supposed to go back to the auto rickshaw stand within the premises but this rule is violated by hundreds of drivers who wait at these gates after dropping off travellers. And then, they charge passengers for it.
"I went to the international airport twice last month to drop my Dubai-bound relatives.
Since I was not aware of the rule that we are supposed to take rickshaws only from the stand, I approached one that had just dropped off a traveller.
I was surprised when he asked for Rs 200 to drop me to Goregaon," said Hanif Mohammed, a Goregaon resident.
"When I asked him why he was asking for so much, he said, 'We have to pay the policemen on airport duty.
They do not allow us to operate from the terminal until we give them a hefty amount'," he added.
Passengers say the drivers remain unfazed even when they threaten to report the overcharging to the police.
"They are not scared of the policemen on duty. One driver actually told me to complain to who ever I wanted, claiming it wouldn't make a difference.
Even the airport staff on duty do not ask them to leave soon as they drop off passengers, which they do for all other vehicles," said Sachin Sharma, a Thane resident.
When MiD DAY spoke to Thampy Kurian, working president of Mumbai Auto Rickshaw Union, he conceded that some rickshaw drivers could be doing that.
"At the same time, some auto rickshaw drivers operating from the terminal area may have some adjustment with the local officer on duty.
As per my knowledge, auto rickshaws are not allowed to operate from the arrival and departure gates of the airport. They have been allotted a separate stand."
"Until and unless some passenger or an auto rickshaw driver operating from the authorised stand registers a complaint against this practice, the truth will never come out.
For, the drivers who are doing this and the officers colluding with them will obviously never admit to it," added Kurian DCP Satyanarayan Choudhary said, "We have not received any such complaints but if the auto rickshaw drivers are doing this, they will be penalised and punished as per law."
ACP (Traffic) Vilas Pawar said, "If the auto rickshaw drivers are operating from the restricted area, it is a clear rule violation. Necessary action will be taken against them."