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Cop kiosk remedy to cab refusal pain

The stretch in front of City Centre II where police will run a taxi assistance booth

The Bidhannagar commissionerate will run taxi assistance booths, one each near City Centre II and Technopolis at Sector V, from August this year to check the menace of cab refusal and ensure service even at night.

The authorities were forced to offer a solution following a torrent of complaints from residents, visitors as well as Sector V office-goers about harassment by cabbies and difficulty in getting taxis after sundown at New Town.

“Our Facebook page was flooded with complaints of taxi refusal. We found that most people were harassed in these two places and that’s why we decided to manage taxi stands there,” said a traffic officer of the commissionerate.

The taxi stands outside City Centre II and Technopolis would be converted into bays. Drivers will have to wait their turn after registering their vehicles at a police kiosk.

“The kiosk would be manned by an assistant sub-inspector and constables. Passengers will approach the kiosk where they can get the taxi number, from the list of registered taxis. Green police volunteers will help them spot the cab among the ones parked at the bay,” said the officer.

The officer said the kiosk would initially operate between 10am and 10pm.

On-duty policemen will penalise a driver with a Rs 100 fine for refusing passengers. The driving licences of repeat offenders will be forfeited.

The passenger will get a printed slip mentioning the traffic helpline number (9051213100) of the commissionerate. He or she can call and complain if a driver overcharges or misbehaves. The driver can be easily tracked since the taxi numbers are registered with the police.

The commissionerate has been operating taxi booths outside City Centre I, Salt Lake, and the airport for the past two years.

The commissionerate has modelled the blueprint for the two proposed booths on the existing mechanism at the airport and City Centre I.

Officers said plans were afoot on operating booths in front of Infinity Benchmark, Sector V, and Susrut Eye Foundation at HB block, Salt Lake.

People welcomed the move but were not convinced about the police promise for action.

“I waited more than 45 minutes in the scorching sun outside City Centre II for a taxi. Most taxis at the stand refused while a few drivers wanted Rs 400, almost three times more than what the metered fare would be. I finally boarded a bus to reach Baguiati and took a taxi from there to reach home on Tobin Road,” said Diya Dasgupta, who had gone to the mall with her nephew and daughter, both in their early teens.

Dasgupta said she was shocked at the “advice” from a constable managing traffic when she approached him for help: pay whatever the cabbies were asking and go.

Many people have complained that the search for a taxi had become tougher within five months after the police opened the kiosk at City Centre I because no constables were there to enforce the rules.

“The police make promises they have no intention to keep. I am sceptical but if they manage the kiosks properly, nothing like it,” said Arunabha Hazra, a BPO employee at Technopolis.

“Each time I hailed a cab outside my office, the driver had asked for Rs 100 over and above the metered fare,” he said.

The police described the mismanagement at the City Centre I kiosk as “teething trouble” and pledged to offer better service.

“Teething trouble at new projects are inevitable. We understand the trouble people are facing at several parts of Salt Lake and New Town. Our priority is to minimise the grievances,” said an officer.