Friday, September 10, 2010

Three Cheers to Meter Jam

Meter Jam is back. The highly successful campaign to create awareness about the callousness of a section of taxi and auto drivers is back with a bigger edition on 12 October. If you've ever been refused a ride in autos or cabbies, if you've ever been spoken to rudely by them or if you've been a victim of meter tampering, 12 October is the day where you must avoid them. (Though I must add not all taxi drivers and auto drivers are dishonest)

The other point I want to make is the sheer lack of taxis outside railway stations. Years ago, there was a perfectly managed taxi queue outside Mumbai Central railway station. Atleast one policeman used man the queue and ensure that taxis don't refuse passengers. A couple of years or so back I alighted at Mumbai Central and went to the taxi stand, that has since changed its place. All drivers refused me and I had to ultimately walk all the way to the top of the Mumbai Central road-over bridge, with my luggage, maneuver the traffic the absence of any signal, wait for a cab before I could successfully hail one. Thank God, at CST station, this problem is not there; policemen are always there to ensure we get a cab. At Dadar station too, I can see a mess, especially people alighting at the Dadar terminus. And the less said about Bandra Terminus, the better. I have not had the opportunity to catch a cab at Kurla Terminus, but I wouldn't be surprised if the situation is the same.

How about a situation, where each and every taxis is mandated to serve a minimum number of trips at each of the railway terminus in a month. Firstly, enough policemen must be positioned; atleast one per taxi stand, to ensure that taxis don't refuse passengers. Make it mandatory for each taxi (not taxi-driver) to serve (pick up a passenger) at each of the six railway terminus (Churchgate, CST, Mumbai Central, Bandra, Kurla and Dadar) in Mumbai. Not just these terminuses, but all railway stations. The same goes for autos too, outside important stations such as Andheri, Borivali, Ghatkopar, Mulund, Thane, Kalyan and so on.

A device or mechanism should be arranged to record a taxi's attendance at all these terminus's. At the end of the month, data should be collated at the Regional Transport Offices to make a note of who's fulfilling the mandatory requirements and who isn't. Before picking up a passenger, a quick check on their meters and whether they are working properly. I do not know how easy or difficult it is to catch meter tampering, but taxis that regularly pick up passengers at train terminus and airport (especially the latter) have their meters tampered.

At the end of the month, an audit needs to be done on who served at railway stations and who didn't. Taxis that do not do their duty should be punished. Care should be taken that a single taxi should serve all these railway terminus's, within a definite time frame, say, four to six months. You can post a policeman at the post to man the taxis, but it's not possible for him to ensure taxis reach the station to pick up passengers.

If need arises, the government may incentivise taxis picking up passengers at the railway terminus. But it is absolutely necessary that when tourists enter Mumbai, there's a cab, preferably an honest one, waiting for them to pick them up.

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