The Telegraph
Wednesday , March 26 , 2014
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Fight against fudged taxi meters on FB

The public vehicles department (PVD) has started accepting complaints about taxi-meter tampering on Facebook.

A passenger who feels cheated by a taxi can post a message on the “Pvd Kolkata” page, mentioning the car’s registration number, the date and time of journey, point of embarkation and disembarkation, the time taken to complete the journey and why he/she feels the meter reading wasn’t correct.

The department will summon the taxi driver and the complainant for a “hearing” on a particular date and initiate penal action, if necessary.

“The penalty for driving a taxi with a faulty meter is Rs 3,000. Once a complaint is posted on the PVD page, officers will cull out the taxi owner’s name and address from the database and ask for the details of the driver,” a senior transport official said.

Apart from the Facebook page, the PVD plans to have a dedicated email account and telephone line for complaints.

Sending a message to the PVD through the department’s Facebook page is the only way to lodge a complaint now. The option of posting one’s complaint on the page, as is the norm for all such public-interest pages, hasn’t been enabled yet.

“An improved, user-friendly system is being put in place,” the official said.

PVD insiders said the department was putting together a team to monitor the flow of complaints, including those pertaining to faulty meters and taxi refusal.

For Calcuttans dependent on public transport, taxis have remained a source of torment despite the government warning of punitive action against drivers for refusing passengers. Faulty or fudged meters are also a common complaint.

The state government announced last September that all taxis must calibrate their meters to display the actual fare, sparing passengers complex calculations or the trouble of asking for the fare chart. The move had followed a flood of complaints and some prodding by Delhi.

The first three months since the notification saw few taxis turn up at the PVD office to calibrate their meters, forcing the government to extend the deadline. “As of mid-March, nearly 93 per cent of the 18,000-plus taxis (registered in Calcutta) have got their meters calibrated. We hope to complete the task within a month and a half,” the transport official said.

But a calibrated meter isn’t necessarily a fair one, as PVD officials have learnt. Random checks have revealed that taxi drivers have found ways to tamper with the calibrated meters to fleece passengers like they had been doing before.

“In February alone, we collected Rs 9 lakh as penalty from drivers using fudged meters,” a PVD official said.

At Rs 3,000 per taxi, that works out to 300 vehicles being caught playing dirty. The number of taxis that have escaped detection is at least three times more, the official said.

The PVD had announced earlier this month that taxis would be blacklisted for refusing passengers. Blacklisting means the owner/driver of a taxi must attend a hearing on a fixed date, failing which the vehicle won’t be able to legally ply.