A Calcuttan on his way to Howrah railway station in a taxi on Tuesday night was allegedly tricked into getting off on a dark and deserted stretch near Netaji Indoor Stadium, threatened and forced to pay almost six times the normal fare.
Anupam Maity, a senior manager with a diagnostics firm, said in a complaint on Calcutta police’s Facebook page that the driver of taxi number WB 04 1943 not only coerced him into paying an inflated fare but also cheated him of an extra Rs 500. The incident occurred around 8.15pm.
The 31-year-old told Metro that he was talking to a colleague over phone when the driver suddenly braked at a desolate spot between Akashvani Bhavan and Khudiram Anushilan Kendra, claiming that the vehicle couldn’t proceed to Howrah because of a snag.
“I was still in conversation when I got off, took out my wallet and gave him a Rs 500 note without looking at the fare meter. I didn’t suspect anything was amiss until I realised that the driver wasn’t returning the change,” he recounted.
Anupam said he told his colleague he would call later and turned to the driver to ask what the fare was. “I strained to look at the meter in semi-darkness when he told me the fare was Rs 353. The meter showed Rs 147 or thereabouts, I don’t exactly remember.”
The driver had apparently calculated the fare based on the method applicable to uncalibrated meters to arrive at the figure of Rs 353. The distance from Anupam’s office near Ruby hospital on the Bypass till Netaji Indoor Stadium is around 10km.
Anupam was unable recall whether he saw Rs 10 or Rs 25 as the meter reading at the start of the journey. The reading on a calibrated meter starts at Rs 25, in which case Rs 147 for a 10km journey would have been more or less a legitimate fare.
The yet unidentified taxi driver — he was accompanied by a helper on the front passenger seat — allegedly didn’t stop at charging an inflated fare. “He also denied that I had given him a Rs 500 note. I protested, at which he started behaving aggressively,” Anupam said.
The driver’s helper was the first to step out of the car and allegedly threaten to assault Anupam.
“I looked around for help but there was nobody around. So I thought it safer to give them whatever they had asked for. I handed the driver Rs 350 and walked away,” he said.
Anupam didn’t go to a police station immediately because he was running late to hand over an official document to a colleague in Howrah who was waiting for an 8.55pm train to Bhubaneswar.
“But I did narrate the incident to a constable standing outside a police kiosk.He advised me to lodge a complaint about taxi refusal at 1079 or visit the nearest police station,” he said.
Anupam, who took a ferry to Howrah, lodged a complaint on Calcutta traffic police’s Facebook page around 1pm on Wednesday. The page admin responded within an hour, promising “expeditious redressal”. But nobody from Lalbazar had called Anupam till late on Wednesday, he said.
“We will look into the complaint and the taxi driver will be arrested soon. If the complainant’s allegations are true, it will be treated not only as a case of taxi refusal but also as an instance of extortion,” said Dilip Adak, deputy commissioner of traffic police.
Anupam’s plight is yet another instance of cabbies in this city harassing commuters because there are not enough strong deterrents.
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