The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Dodging past traffic norms

Bhubaneswar, May 3: Bhubaneswar police may be patting their backs for collecting penalties worth Rs 1.5 lakh in the past two days from the helmet-checking drive, but they seem to have let off thousands of autorickshaw drivers, who rampantly flout traffic norms.

The 20,000-odd autorickshaws, a major cause of congestion on Bhubaneswar roads, are carrying on their business as usual. The “share autos” that ply on the busiest thoroughfare, Janpath, regularly carry six to seven passengers, instead of the four they ought to carry.

The Capital Auto Owners’ Association estimates that 10 per cent of the autos have metres in working condition, but it has no data on how many actually go by the metre. In most cases a passenger travelling by the autorickshaw is a harassed fellow.

Either he is hurled inside an overloaded vehicle, else he ends up paying a huge ransom if he chooses to book the vehicle for himself.

“According to the Motor Vehicle Act, no passenger auto can carry more than four, which includes the driver,” said B.K. Senapati, regional transport officer (RTO), Bhubaneswar.

He said his department had warned and fined just about 200 drivers last year for violations during a surprise checking. “But we have a shortage of staff and it is very difficult to enforce the rules fully,” he admitted.

Senapati said the city has witnessed registration of more than 1,000 passenger autos every year in the past 10 years. “In the 2006-07 fiscal, 1,458 passenger autorickshaws were registered, while the year before, it was 1,063. Besides, vehicles registered at other RTOs also ply here,” he said.

“None is willing to go by the metre to the Ginger Hotel in Chandrashekharpur,” said a hassled and stranded Shyam Narayan Badri, an UP businessman visiting Bhubaneswar. “Don’t you have pre-paid autorickshaw counters'” he asked.

Unfortunately for him, auto fares in Bhubaneswar are still governed by arbitrary decisions of auto associations and not logic.

The most common mode of transport also holds many perils for young women. “It gets too close for comfort when drivers ask you to accommodate more passengers,” said Sunanda, a PG-student of Utkal University, who has to commute by autorickshaws from her Unit 6 home.

But the police, who normally go on an overdrive while checking errant motorists plead helplessness, while dealing with autorickshaw drivers. Reason: In the past auto associations have resorted to gheraoing police stations after cops seized their vehicles.

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