File picture of the prepaid auto-rickshaw counter at Ranchi station complex
A contractor with a JMM connection, who currently runs the prepaid auto-rickshaw counter at Ranchi station, has struck terror in the hearts of operators plying the three-wheelers in the area.
Bablu Tiger, who obtained the contract to run the prepaid counter in November last year, is allegedly fleecing operators in the name of commission. Auto-drivers who refuse to pay up more than the charge fixed by district administration are threatened and, sometimes, beaten up.
Auto-rickshaw operators plying from the stretch said the contractor charged them twice the specified amount.
“As per rule, we are supposed to pay five rupees for each trip as commission to him. But, Tiger charges us Rs 10 for each trip. He often comes with his cronies to terrorise us,” said Pappu Singh, vice president of Chhotanagpur Taxi Tempo Chalak Sangh.
The operators revealed that nearly 10 days back, Tiger and his armed cronies had thrashed some auto-drivers who refused to pay the extra amount. Agitated auto-wallahs had responded by lodging an FIR against the contractor at Chutia police station.
“Woh kehta hai ki uska koi kuch nahi bigaad sakta, kyun ki woh JMM ka neta hai aur uski jaan-pehchan party ke bade bade netaon se hai. Ham gareeb log hain, dhandhe paani ka sawal hai. Lekin kab tak julm sahen,” rued Manoj, an auto driver.
The operators further alleged that Tiger also extorted money from auto-drivers not associated with the prepaid service and ferry passengers on their own.
Chutia police station incharge Krishna Murari confirmed that an FIR had been lodged. “Tiger has been booked for rioting, extortion and creating disturbance at public place. We are probing the incident,” he added.
Tiger denied all allegations and claimed people with vested interests were behind the allegations.
“Some people do not want prepaid auto rickshaw service to run for personal interests. They are levelling false allegations against me ever since I have started streamlining the service. As per rule, I charge only five rupees from auto-drivers.
Interestingly, the contractor claimed he was a victim of local goons.
“Local gundas try to extort money from us. I have already informed the district administration about this. But, nobody dares to act because such people have police protection. If this situation continues, I will be forced to close the centre and administration will be responsible. One should come to railway station and see auto rickshaws plying without permits to know the real situation,” he added.
The prepaid auto-rickshaw facility was started at Ranchi station by district administration in 2010. As part of the system, commuters can book three-wheelers from a counter against a fixed fare to any place within a 16km-radius from the station. Passengers pay at the counter before boarding the vehicle. In turn, the counter assigns them an auto-rickshaw and hands over receipts to both the passenger and the operator.
On production of receipt at the counter, the operator is paid the fare by deducting the commission.
On an average, 50-odd bookings are made from the prepaid counter daily.