Cabs too few, touts take fliers for a ride

A passenger was asked to pay Rs 390 for a ride to Kestopur from the prepaid taxi counter at Calcutta airport on Monday. The ride usually costs Rs 180.

By Rith Basu
  • Published 11.09.18
10.11am: Passengers wait for cabs at the city airport on Monday 
2.48pm: A suspected tout (in black T-shirt) seems to be approaching a potential target at the airport
2pm: An ambulance among vehicles  held up because of a Trinamul rally in Moulali
8.02am: CPM protesters put up a blockade at Jadavpur station.

Dum Dum: A passenger was asked to pay Rs 390 for a ride to Kestopur from the prepaid taxi counter at Calcutta airport on Monday. The ride usually costs Rs 180.

Another flier was asked to shell out Rs 690 for a trip to Sealdah, when the average fare is Rs 275.

Flights operated on schedule during the bandh called by the Congress and the Left on Monday. But passengers arriving in the city had a tough time hiring cabs. Those who were lucky enough to get one had to pay through their nose.

Only 540 prepaid taxis had been booked from the airport till 1pm on Monday, compared to the normal weekday count of 900, said an officer at a booth run by the Bidhannagar commissionerate, where all prepaid yellow taxis have to register before leaving the airport with passengers,

"There were hardly any prepaid taxis at the airport in the morning. Post-noon, the number increased," the official said.

Less than half the usual number of app cabs were booked from the airport on Monday - the Uber and Ola counters put the weekday count at 4,000 and 2,000 cabs respectively.

Taxi drivers and touts had a field day, overcharging stranded passengers.

Dilip Biswas arrived from Guwahati with his sister-in-law Sandhya Biswas around 1.45pm and ran into a tout in front of the prepaid counter. He was offered a "luxury taxi" at Rs 390 for a 7.8km ride to Kestopur.

"There was no one at the booking counter outside the terminal building. The tout told me it was because of the bandh. But I remembered there was another counter inside the terminal and went there. The same ride cost me Rs 180," Biswas said.

An official of the NSCBI Airport police station said there was a scarcity of yellow taxis and app cabs in the morning but the situation improved as the day progressed.

The touts, however, tried to cash in on the bandh call.

A man in a black T-shirt and brown trousers was seen approaching Rajesh Kumar, 27, a techie who arrived from Mumbai and was on his way to Sealdah, from where he would take a train to Bolpur. He was charged Rs 690 for a ride to Sealdah that usually costs Rs 275. "The tout told me I would have trouble getting a yellow cab because of the bandh," Kumar said.

Prasad Pandey, 29, from Hyderabad was asked to cough up Rs 795 for a ride to Howrah station - a trip that costs Rs 335, according to the prepaid rate chart.

"The touts who fleece passengers at the airport are rounded up regularly. But they manage to get bail and return to business. We have to put up signs indicating where the prepaid booths are and hope that the passengers will notice these signs and not get waylaid by touts," said a senior police officer.

Pictures by Pradip Sanyal and Mayukh Sengupta