Now WhatsApp complaint against errant auto and taxi drivers to RTO | Mumbai news

Mumbai: In what is likely to be music to Mumbaikars’ ears, the Regional Transport Offices (RTOs) have started a WhatsApp service to address complaints against errant taxi and autorickshaw drivers directly from commuters.

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On July 11, the Wadala RTO launched the ‘Rickshaw/Taxi Complaint Helpline Number’, 9152240303, on which people can leave a message. The Andheri and Borivali RTOs are in the process of setting up similar services. Citizens can also lodge complaints against drivers who work with aggregator cabs services like Ola and Uber.

““People can simply WhatsApp their grievance stating the vehicle number, location and time along with a picture, and necessary action will be taken after thorough investigation,” said a senior officer from Wadala RTO. The Wadala RTO has jurisdiction over vehicles registered under the number MH-03, between Kurla and Mulund.

On the very first day of the launch, the Wadala RTO received two complaints on its email ID and one complaint on the WhatsApp number. The complaints pertained to refusal to ply and wrongly parked vehicles. RTO officials said that as their presence on social media was poor, they were unable to amplify this initiative.

The RTOs are set to create a bank of locations from where a high volume of complaints is received, and it is expected that a large number of grievances will be against ‘shared’ auto rickshaws. “Other than the most common issue of refusal to ply, the issue of illegal autos plying on a share basis is very prevalent,” said another RTO officer. “We will identify these specific autos and locations to ensure that stringent action is taken in every complaint.”

Other complaints which officers expect to receive are of drivers who refuse to go by the meter, those who rig their meters and those who carry more passengers than permissible on a fare-share basis.

Hindustan Times had written about these issues plaguing Bandra, Kurla and BKC, where auto drivers plying on both regular fares and on a share basis have become a menace to passengers. Multiple unions have questioned if the drivers have relevant permits, driving licences and other documents to run their vehicles commercially.

“Despite several complaints made by us, there is barely any action taken against errant auto and taxi drivers who might not even have valid permits to ply. There are also rickshaws which are on the road despite being unfit to ply,” said Thampy Kurien, autorickshaw and taxi union leader.

Sanjay Jaiswal, a resident of Kandivali East, complained that errant auto and taxi drivers forced them to sit in vehicles exceeding the carrying capacity. “We have to sit next to the driver,” he said. “When we protest, they threaten us and ask us to sit in the next rickshaw. These auto drivers brazenly flout traffic rules and drive rashly.”

The Andheri and Borivali RTOs will soon set up similar complaint redressal services on WhatsApp. The Andheri RTO covers the area from Bandra to Jogeshwari/Goregaon, with vehicles registered under MH-02. The Borivali RTO registers vehicles under MH-47 and covers the area from Goregaon to Dahisar. “We are running final trials. We will also hold meetings with the respective driver unions before going public,” said a senior officer involved in the administration of both RTOs.

Meanwhile, the Tardeo RTO, which initiated a similar complaint service via WhatsApp number 90762010101 in September 2022 for taxis registered under MH-01, saw 1,192 cases up to June 2023. “We have solved 215 cases already, issued show cause notices to 977 drivers and collected fines amounting to over 8.32 lakh,” said an officer. There are still 581 cases pending.

As an immediate measure to address the issue of rogue share autos, union leaders met transport department officials earlier this month to demand prepaid autorickshaw stands. These have been sought for six locations, namely Bandra and LTT terminuses, the domestic and international terminals of Mumbai Airport, and the Parel and Borivali MSRTC bus stands. A committee is likely to be set up to decide the probable fares of the prepaid autos.

These six locations see a huge number of passengers with luggage, who are usually taken for a ride by unscrupulous auto drivers. “We have no control over autorickshaw drivers outside Bandra and Kurla stations,” said auto union leader K K Tiwari. “We have also complained to the RTO about drivers breaking traffic rules and autorickshaw drivers who overcharge by plying on a fare-share basis.”

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