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‘He scared us with his behaviour’

- Lady engineers encounter rogue cabbie after dinner on Park Street

Two young women have lodged a police complaint about harassment and intimidation by a taxi driver on Saturday night after they got off his vehicle midway for refusing to enter a lane where one of them lives.

The driver, who was ferrying the duo from Park Street for a consolidated fare higher than the metered reading, allegedly blocked their way and tried to snatch their bags after they hailed another taxi to take them home. He forced them to disembark and as they tried to walk away, he followed them. The taxi driver didn’t relent until some passers-by who had heard them call for help intervened.

One of the women, friends from engineering college, recounts the ordeal to Metro.

The two of us stepped out of a Park Street restaurant around 9.30 on Saturday night and looked for a taxi to take us home, little knowing that the nice dinner and conversation we had had would soon be spoilt by a traumatic experience.

As is usually the case on Park Street and elsewhere at night, taxi after taxi refused us. After being turned down by about half a dozen of them, one driver agreed to take us to Jadavpur via Ballygunge Place for Rs 200. The man, who appeared to be in his 50s, made it clear that he wouldn’t go by the fare meter. It was getting late, so we had to agree. We bargained with him and he agreed to make the trip for Rs 180, which is higher than the usual fare.

While boarding the taxi, we told the driver once again that my friend would get off at Ballygunge Place en route to Jadavpur, where I live.

On reaching the ITI bus stop opposite the Gariahat tram depot, near Ballygunge Phari, my friend told the taxi driver to take a left turn. Her home is barely a 10-minute walk from the main road. The driver inexplicably started shouting at us, claiming that it had been decided he would take us to Jadavpur for Rs 180 without stopping anywhere in between.

We initially thought he was under the impression that both of us would get off at Ballygunge Place; so we tried to assure him that I would go to Jadavpur in his taxi and pay him the fare we had agreed on. But he wouldn’t listen to what we were saying. He kept repeating “ekshoashi (Rs 180)”.

All our efforts to make him understand that we would pay him when he reached Jadavpur were futile.

We asked him to at least stop the taxi on the main road so that my friend could get off, but he kept shouting at us instead of listening. He was scaring us with his behaviour; so we asked him to halt immediately, assuring him that we would pay the fare till that point.

He refused to stop and he would not accept the fare we were offering. Luckily, the traffic signal was red at the ITI crossing, giving us the opportunity to get off. As for paying him for the ride till that point, we had little option but to walk away because he wasn’t accepting the money.

We quickly boarded another taxi and it took a left turn from the ITI crossing towards Mandeville Gardens, only to halt suddenly because the first taxi was blocking the way. The driver got off and started screaming that he would let us go only after we paid him Rs 180.

The second driver, who was unaware of what had happened earlier, drove away after asking us to settle the dispute. It was 10.05pm then.

Our tormentor continued his rant, standing in the middle of the road. We argued that since we got off his vehicle at the ITI crossing, we would pay him half the fare. After all, it was he who had declined to enter the Ballygunge Place lane to drop my friend there. He wouldn’t see reason.

Suddenly, the driver grabbed the strap of my friend’s bag and tried to wrest it. We screamed for help and some passers-by gathered around us.

We again offered the driver the legitimate fare but he wouldn’t settle for anything less than Rs 180. So we kept walking towards my friend’s home. When we reached Tasty Corner, a fast food joint around 100 metres away, the driver sneaked up on us and tried snatching my bag this time.

Some people in a nearby shop heard us protesting and restrained the driver. Realising that a crowd could gather in no time and also aware that we had almost reached my friend’s home, the driver finally accepted Rs 100 from us and left.

We jotted down the registration number of his taxi (WB-04F-5080) and proceeded to my friend’s home. I was so scared to make the journey to my home in Jadavpur alone that I was on the verge of tears. A cousin of my friend arrived to help and the two of them took me home around 11.30pm.

My friend dialled a Calcutta traffic police helpline late on Saturday and narrated the incident. She also obtained the telephone number of the Bengal Taxi Association from a friend and informed Bimal Guha, the general secretary of the association, about the incident.

Around 4pm on Sunday, I posted my complaint on the Calcutta traffic police’s Facebook page.

Our parents have asked us to take our family cars from now on but I don’t think that’s the solution. Do you?