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The Telegraph
 
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SLAPPED AGAIN

Lawlessness is not surprising. What is amazing is that Calcutta shows some apparently incurable manifestations of it. These are not exceptions, but a part of everyday life. Auto-rickshaw drivers who assault not one, not two, but a group of policemen who are trying to impose the law represent precisely this feature. And this particular incident was part of a series of assaults and bullying by auto drivers that appear to be increasing in spite of efforts to bring them under control. It is hardly surprising that another passenger has been abused and her companion slapped. That is at least milder than another driverís earlier assault on a woman with a rod.

Political parties in power have nurtured auto drivers for too long for them to be suddenly afraid of the law. The aggression with which they take over the roads, their complete indifference to rules and laws, the recklessness with which they drive, and the cavalier manner in which they manipulate fares have all been countenanced without a blink by the administration for years. Their bullying and violence have grown in proportion to their indifference to the law. Converging with this is the helplessness of the thousands who have to use the auto every day. Inadequate public transport and the lack of a regulated feeder system force people to queue up for the three-wheelers. Passengers are at the mercy of drivers who are accountable to no one except their unions and political patrons. It is a rare city that must depend so heavily on an Ďunorganized sectorí in transport. Auto licences are given as favours or rewards, irrespective of training or driving abilities. Yet these three-wheelers could be used effectively on feeder routes if only there had been proper administration and control. Properly trained drivers would offer a form of fairly cheap and convenient transport for a wide range of people. Outrage at the violence and defiance of auto drivers is natural, but surely it is the recalcitrance of their political patrons that must be addressed if anything is to change? The people of Calcutta must confront those who are handing over the city to thugs.