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56 autos fail passenger safety test, fined

East Singhbhum traffic police launched a crackdown on auto-rickshaw drivers who risk commuters’ safety by not fixing the mandatory rod on the right side of the vehicle and squeezing in as many passengers as possible with the seizure of 56 erring three-wheelers on Thursday.

The surprise drive, which was last held in 2008, started at 11.30am on the busy Jugsalai-Bistupur Main Road in front of Jugsalai thana and continued till 2.30pm.

While autos without the mandatory iron rods on the right side were slapped a fine of Rs 500 under Section 179 of Motor Vehicles Act, those allowing passengers to sit on the driver’s right side had to pay a penalty of Rs 1,000 each for dangerous driving.

Patna High Court had made it mandatory for auto drivers to fix an iron rod on the right side so that passengers, especially the elderly and children, felt safe. In 2000, Regional Transport Authority asked all three-wheelers to go by the court order.

On Thursday, the autos were apprehended for violating that order. They were later released after fines were paid.

“We started the drive after complaints started pouring in, especially from elderly who are often forced to sit on the right side of auto drivers. They tend to squeeze in as many passengers as possible to earn a few extra buck, putting people’s life at risk,” said deputy superintendent of police (traffic) R.M. Sinha.

Teams from the traffic department also cracked the whip on overloading, under-age driving and picking up of passengers from no-parking zones. The policemen went through the vehicles’ documents, checked whether the autos were rightly built and if they had pressure horns.

In Jamshedpur, around 25,000 autos ply on various routes, carrying more than 2 lakh commuters daily. No doubt, the three-wheeler is the most preferred mode of public transport in the steel city.

Thus, the objective of the drive was simple. In the words of traffic DSP Sinha, the aim was to instil concern for passengers among auto drivers.

Last June, the traffic department had carried out a drive against overloading and restricted the number of passengers in an auto.

“During that time, too, the auto drivers were reminded to fix the iron rods,” said Sinha.

He added that four other police stations in the city — Golmuri, Bistupur, Sakchi and Mango — have been asked to start similar surprise checks within a few days.

But, like any good thing, the drive, too, had its flip side.

As soon as the crackdown kicked off, auto drivers started dropping passengers in the middle of the road.

The worst sufferers were children, who had to walk in this scorching sun for nearly 100 metres to reach their schools in Bistupur. “The driver stopped the vehicle near Voltas roundabout when he got to know that traffic personnel were conducting the drive. After waiting for a while, he asked a few of us to walk across the road. I boarded another auto in front of Jugsalai police station,” said Sunita Kumari, a student of St Mary’s English High School.