| Autorickshaws without number plates are a common sight at the stand bordering Howrah station. The traffic cops turn a blind eye and so the auto drivers get away despite flouting the most basic road rule. Picture by Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya
The township has done what the city is reluctant to do — crack down on rogue autorickshaws. And in doing so it has run into a routine roadblock — union power play.
The drive against illegal autorickshaws in Salt Lake hit a hurdle last week with Citu leaders rallying around rogue auto drivers.
An officer of Bidhannagar police station said the first sign of Citu resistance came during a crackdown on an illegal autorickshaw stand in AE Block when several auto drivers without the necessary route permit were stopped.
“Though we managed to book five of them, the others had to be let off with just a warning due to pressure from leaders of the local Citu-affiliated auto union,” he admitted.
“As soon as we started issuing slips, about 10 auto drivers surrounded us and told us this was not the way to operate in Salt Lake. They heckled us and said the auto drivers must not be booked without our superior officer consulting some local Citu leaders,” he added.
A section of local Citu leaders later met a senior police officer and urged him to stop the drive against autos.
“Last week, we conducted a drive near City Centre and booked over 10 autorickshaws without permits. But when we came back to the police station, some Citu members, led by Suman Ghoshal, came and ordered us to return the papers of some autos plying from Karunamoyee. When we refused, they threatened to take up the matter at a higher political level,” alleged an officer of Bidhannagar (North) police station.
The police ran into similar Citu-steered resistance during a raid in DL Block. “Many autorickshaws veer off their scheduled routes. When we stopped them and asked for their papers they said: ‘Speak to our leaders and only then dare touch us.’ In some cases, we have had to soften our stand under union pressure,” admitted an officer of Bidhannagar (South) police station.
Senior Citu leaders of Salt Lake attempted to distance themselves from the display of dadagiri.
“We are aware that some of our activists are trying to influence the police.... But we have taken a decision to help the police stop vehicles plying without valid documents,” claimed Asim Guha, a zonal Citu leader of Salt Lake.
Ashoke Biswas, the additional superintendent of police of Bidhannagar, stressed that the drive against errant autos “will continue” in Salt Lake, where 117 such vehicles have been already booked.