Auto-rickshaws parked at an unauthorised stand in Sonari on Friday. (Animesh Sengupta)
Thursday’s crackdown on auto-rickshaws without the mandatory rod on the right side and carrying more passengers than they are supposed to bared another truth — most of these three-wheelers are plying in the steel city without valid permits right under the nose of the administration.
Increased traffic congestion, mushrooming auto stands at busy junctions and on narrow bylanes are the results of this reality that’s known to all, including the district authorities and traffic policemen. But surprisingly, none is willing to take the onus for letting the three-wheeler fleet go unmonitored, instead preferring to blame each other.
East Singhbhum district transport officer (DTO) Sanjay Mohan Kujur, who registers new vehicles and also keeps a tab on commercial vehicles operating in the city, admitted that several autos in the steel city were plying without permits.
According to him, the regional transport authority (RTA) in Ranchi had stopped issuing fresh permits for a period since October 2013 till recently, but new autos continued to hit the roads.
“The city has around 20,000 to 25,000 autos operating from different stands, but not all of them have permits. Law-enforcing agencies like the traffic department should conduct permit checking drives more effectively. Since October last year, fresh permits were not issued to any new vehicle till the first week of May. Still, auto-rickshaw operators were plying their vehicles after submitting applications for the permits,” said the DTO.
Asked for the count of illegal autos in the city, Kujur said he didn’t have the exact figure and passed the buck to the traffic department.
According to deputy superintendent of police (traffic) Rakesh Mohan Sinha, around 40 per cent of existing auto-rickshaws didn’t have permits.
But he also washed his hands of regular drives against the illegal vehicles, saying his primary job was to streamline traffic, keep roads free from congestion, clear jams and conduct helmet checks.
“Checking permits of commercial vehicles, especially autos, is the job of the DTO, enforcement officer and motor vehicle inspector. Still during the crackdown on Thursday, I checked the papers of several autos and penalised them for running without permits,” Sinha told The Telegraph.
Another senior traffic police officer, speaking on the condition of anonymity, pointed out that illegal autos were not only contributing to traffic snarls, but also causing huge revenue losses.
But DTO Kujur threw back the ball to the traffic department’s court.
“Such drives are supposed to be carried out by traffic police, not my department. Besides, I remain too busy with official works. Still, I go for the drives some times,” he added.
President of Jamshedpur Tempo Chalak Sangh (Jamshedpur Auto Driver’s Association) Feroz Khan, however, batted for his men, saying that all auto drivers under their aegis had permits.
“No auto driver goes out without permits, but if any of them does flout the rule, the administration should not take a tough stand as this mode of transport benefits the public most,” Khan added.
Apart from the new vehicles that are yet to get permits, a large number of old ones also do not get the mandatory certificate renewed after five years.
According to the Motor Vehicles Act, a three-wheeler travelling without a permit has to cough up five times the permit fee, which is Rs 950, by way of fine.