Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Crooked rickshaw-drivers and lackadaisical RTO and why Raj Thackeray has a point.

While the whole nation chooses to rant against Raj Thackeray and the antics of his MNS, I’ll play the Devil’s advocate and argue his case against UP wallahs and Biharis. I do not object to these guys monopolizing the taxi and rickshaw driving jobs in the city of Bombay. The constitution grants every Indian the right to settle and work anywhere in the Union of India. These guys are working hard to feed their families. They are doing the right thing by toiling hard to sustain themselves. They have also made the choice to not pick up guns and fight against the Republic of India like the Naxalites. Furthermore, they are far from the criminals who choose to run begging rackets by exploiting little children instead of earning their bread by the sweat of their brow.

However, the above facts do not justify the swindling of customers according to the whims and fancies of taxi-drivers and rickshaw drivers. Read the following incidents to understand what citizens of Bombay, New Bombay and Thane, Marathi and non-Marathi people included, undergo on a regular basis.

1. I stay at a place called Saket Complex in Thane. It costs about INR 19 or 20 by rickshaw to come to my residence from Thane railway station and vice-versa from a place called CIDCO about 3 mins away from the station. From the station, it will cost you INR 25-30. Once on a Sunday evening, there were no rickshaws near Saket Complex. I was waiting for one. With me, there was a slightly aged couple. Their manner of dress suggested that they were village folks. A rickshaw came by and this couple asked him to take them to Thane station before I could. I asked the couple if we could share the fare because I had to go to the same place. They agreed. I asked the rickshaw driver to take us to CIDCO. The couple looked confused but I assured them that we would reach where they intended to. On reaching CIDCO, the fare came to INR 20 which we split into half. This couple was surprised. This is how the conversation took place.

The elderly man: Bees rupaiya? Itna hi paisa hota hai! (20 rupees? That’s all it costs?)
Me: Jee haan. Itna hi hota hai Saket se yahan tak. (Yes sir. That’s all it costs from Saket to here.)
The elderly man: Hum jab aaye they, tab hamse 70 rupaiya liye they. (When we had come, we had been charged INR 70 for the richshaw.)
Me: Kya? Sattar rupaiya kaise? (What? How were you charged Rs. 70?)
The elderly man: Jee whoh rickshewallah bole they ke ek seat ka 35 rupaiya hota hai. (The rickshaw driver told us that they charge INR 35 per head.)

I was shocked. This couple was fleeced. Judging from their accent, they were definitely UP wallahs or Biharis. We started walking towards the station.

Me: Kya aapko malum nahi tha yahan pe paisa kitna hota hai? Kya aap yahan pe pehli baar aaye hain? [Didn’t you know how much it (rickshaw fares) costs here? Is this the first time that you have visited this place?}
The elderly lady: Jee haan. Yahan pe shaadi thee. Hum Mira Road se aaye hain. Thane toh pehli baar hi aana hua hai. Humare pehchaan wale Saket mein rehte hain. (Yes. There was a wedding here. We have come from Mira Road. It is the first time that we have come to Thane. We have friends who live in Saket.)
Me: Jab aap aagli baar aayenge, toh CIDCO se rickshaw lijiye ga. Station se mat lijiye ga. (When you come here next time, take a rickshaw from station. Do not take one from the station.)
The elderly man: Hum toh wapas yahan aayenge hee nahi. Koi kaam hee nahi hai yahan pe. (We won’t come here again. We don’t have any business here.)

We exchanged good-byes and parted ways.

2. A Gujarati gentleman from our neighborhood once complained about a similar incident with his guest. His friend had been charged Rs. 50 from Thane station to Saket Complex.

3. Some weeks ago, there were severe traffic problems on the road from CIDCO to Saket. It generally takes 10 mins to get from CIDCO to Saket. That day it took vehicles more than 45 mins. So I decided to walk home instead of waiting for the traffic to clear out. Half-way through the road, I asked a rickshaw fellow to take me to Saket. He agreed. He did not start the meter. I asked him why. He said, “Madam, fixed rate, tees rupaiya. (Rs. 30)” Preposterous! I got off immediately. That ride should not have cost me for than Rs. 15. Later, as I continued walking, a Bengali couple who live in the neighbourhood, called me out from a rickshaw and offered me a lift. We got down at Saket. On getting off, I realized that it was the same rickshaw fellow who tried to dupe me. The Bengali gentleman was the one who got duped instead. Arguments yielded no result as the rickshaw-wallah had been given a Rs. 50 note. He returned Rs. 20 and drove off. This rickshaw fellow was definitely from the group that Raj Thackeray is ranting against.

4. Once, a neighbour and I took a rickshaw from Mulund station to Kopri Bridge. My neighbour regularly goes to Kopri Bridge to cross over from Mulund into Thane but I had never been there. Suddenly my neighbour confronted the driver and asked him where he was taking us. He replied Kopri Bridge. She told him that he was wrong. The argument revealed that he thought that Kopri Bridge and Mulund-Thane check-naka were the same place! The two places are nearly 3 kms apart. Had I been alone, I might have landed up at the check-naka instead of Kopri Bridge. It would have been a complete waste of time and money. The driver was again either an UP-wallah or a Bihari.

5. A co-worker Malyalee Borivali resident visited Thane sometime ago. He had to visit a place near Malhaar theatre. This theatre is roughly a kilometer away from Thane railway station and Thane bus depot. He does not know Thane. This guy got charged INR 70 instead of the usual INR 12 to 15 for a rickshaw ride from Thane station to Malhaar. I asked him how the driver spoke Hindi and the reference was towards India’s north.

6. My office is located near the Nehru Planetarium, Worli, Bombay. In case if you decide to come to this place in a taxi from Byculla station, you have to tell the taxi driver to take you to a well-known hotel called the Copper Chimney or to the Lotus or to Atria Mall or to Poonam Chambers. There have been multiple occasions on which the taxi driver has told me that he does not any of the 5 landmarks I previously mentioned! The driver literally asked me to keep giving him instructions.

I cannot help but feel from personal and second-hand experience that Raj Thackeray has a point, a very valid one at that. No matter how much I despise the violence that his thugs carry out, I have to admit that he has voiced the concerns of civilians everywhere in the city, Marathi or otherwise. Most of the traffic police personnel and RTO officials (I will not say all) lack scruples and neglect duty. They issue licenses to rickshaw drivers from other states although the Motor Vehicles Act clearly prohibits this. The driver has to be domiciled in the State that he/she is working. This means that someone who has lived all his/her life in Maharashtra cannot drive rickshaws and taxis in UP/ Bihar/ Delhi, etc. and vice versa. This is a central government act. This seems unfair but as of now is the law. Even more important is that the law requires the driver to know the area that he works in. This is essential to protect travelers from incidents mentioned in point 4 and 6 and yet the RTO does not take the necessary pains to do what the law asks of it. Raj Thackeray had raised questions regarding the integrity of the RTO on the same issue during a rally in Thane. His question was, “Don’t you have any shame? How can you neglect duty?” He had very clearly stated that we can be assured that if a commuter visits a locality for the first time, he/she will be over-charged by a Bihari / UP wallah rickshaw / taxi driver as described in points 1, 2, 3 and 5. The solution to this is not MNS-style brutal histrionics. The MNS got a well-deserved black eye when its MLAs were suspended for turning the Maharashtra legislative assembly into a wrestling ring. Fist fights are not the answer to everything. Cheats are bound to take advantage of the irresponsible attitude of the law enforcers and of the fact that most commuters hassled by traveling to and fro to work or slightly lost in an unknown area will not do much to confront them. The Chief Minister of Maharastra, Mr. Ashok Chavan was right when he spoke of the strict implementation of the Motor Vehicles Act. Not just Maharashtra, all states should do this. The taxi unions protest every diktat issued by the State with regards to the use of Marathi which is in fact very practical. I wonder what answers they have to this abominable behaviour of their members. The Motor Vehicles Act has to be strictly implemented by the law enforcers themselves. That is what they are paid for. No one deserves to be cheated even if the cheat has poverty as an excuse.
P.S.: I choose to say Bombay because the origin of the traditional English name Bombay holds that it was derived from a Portuguese name meaning "good bay", Bombain or Bombahia. The prosperity of this city commenced because it was identified as an excellent harbour, not because of the local goddess Mumba.


rahul said...

facts mention in this blog are very true and this happens eeryday to someone in Mumbai. though i dont live in Mumbai i have heard many of this cheating stories from many people when i use to live in mumbai. this people should be drilled as soon as possible.
talking about RTO's and traffic police, this people are selling their own pride and our culture just for some small amount of money.

I recon all the people travling by taxi or rickshaw should ask the driver to show the fair chart and meter receipt and if the driver fails to show meter receipt you can complain to nearest police station (meter receipt or meter registration indicates that the meter is in proper working condition and is legal) i also recon not to take the rickshaw or taxi with MH-03 passing coz they are Mulund passing vehicles with illegal meters which runs fast and will cost you more.
thank you
awesome work by Natalia

Natalia said...

Rahul, where did you learn about this problem with MH-03 vehicles? Are you sure about it? It seems slightly dodgy.

Prasenjeet said...

good one natalia.
i had the same experience with this rickshawallah. i had to go from vakola pipeline to juhu beach which cost roughly around 40-50 rs. and the easiest way is through khar subway. the rickshwallah took me to ville parle station and from there to juhu beach, but i abused him in such a manner, but it was of no use bcoz they dont care wt we say they just need money and the meter was running and the bill came upto 82 rs. and while returning it cost me just 44 rs.

i appreciate wtever u have written is absoluetly correct. good work natalia.

Chandan Mulherkar said...

Dudette, I have such experiances all the time.
1. It takes rs.10 from my place to the station. But alas, not a single rick driver agrees to go there, at least during the morning hours- exactly when you need them!
2. If you share a rick, you have to pretend that the person u r sharing with is a relative, otherwise, they charge you separately, meaning that the whole point of sharing the rick is gone.
3. In the evening I'm exhausted by college and need a ride home. Now, since my place is so near-around 2 mins from st.John- the rickshawallahs usually refuse to come. Super frustrating. There was this one rick wallah who actually asked me why I wouldn't go walking! I mean I usually DO walk, but who's he to tell me?? Is making just rs.10 such bad business? Go open a shop then!

And Raju isn't the only one, I recently saw several women protesters armed with belans at the stn. They were carrying posters with a Hand on them..

Pratiksheet said...

Thats pity,

It happens everywhere even in Pune I had to walk or needed to call my father to pick up from Swarget because whenever I wanted to get a rikshaw the driver used to ask for 20rs just for a travel of hardly 3-4 minutes/1.5km, and for the same if he starts the meter then it would hardly read for 7 rs.
nicely put, Natalia.

Natalia said...

All of us have similar experiences and thousands moren have the same stories to narrate but the media simply turns a blind at the mention of this. About a month ago, some Shiv Sena or MNS guy tried to raise this issue on Aaj Tak. The news reporter simply refused to haear him out. All that the guy kept asking was "UP aur Bihari walleh Mumbai mein rickshaw, taxi chalay, toh aapke pet mein dard kyun hota hai?" *(Why should it bother you if people of UP and Bihar drive taxis and rickshaws in Mumbai?)

@Chandan: It is crazy that these guys have the audacity to talk in such a demeaning manner! It is simply pointless to argue with such ill-mannered crooks.

@Pratiksheet: Thank you for telling us that Pune is also going through the same.

fawkes said...

The idea you have projected is quite disturbing. If the educated people will speak of our fellow country men with states divided, it will only perturb our brain. Events you mention are only subjected to a particular section whereas every section of society suffers with same corruption, not Bihari not Bhaiyaas but everyone in every place.

For rickshaw and auto it is just they want to earn more money and that's it. It is not like that Biharies teach their children how to swindle money.

So many solutions are possible to overcome this problem if we choose to overlook the reasons we should overlook the problems too. And for Raj Thakrey, I do not want to get slaped because I belong to other state not only that but also I do not lose the right to live in the land marked as their by human beings.

I understand that it is just a view but still I expected more from you. You write well though :)

Indian said...

Hi Natalia,

In today's world, no matter what you say as long as media doesn't put you on the frontpage,you are nobody.

According to statistics, 74% of the Indian news media is dominated by Hindi news channels & they dismiss just about everything that political parties have to say.

I have a request for you Natalia. Could you possibly write more about 'Dominating hindi in India'?

Natalia said...

I have high respect for all my countrymen and I do not hold any prejudices. I certainly do not believe that Biharis and UP wallahs are all cheats. I do not endorse MNS violence. The problem is not people from he service industry or anywhere else. That will be just foolish! You just have to come to Bombay once to see the nuisance that we face because of taxi and rickshaw drivers. One has to be very alert. My complaint is largely against the Traffic police. They simply turn a blind eye to these cheats. Just imagine, if we Indians get fleeced in this manner, what must these guys be doing to foreigners. It's a national shame. The situation at the airports is even worse. The RTOs every where must become more stringent.

As far as Thackeray is concerned, don't forget that his lawyers are Dubey and Chaubey. There is seriously nothing against people who earn an homourable living. If someone blatantly discriminates on the basis of language/ caste / region, etc. just for the sake of it, be sure that I will be amongst the first to raise a hue and cry against them. Believe me, I honestly feel that life surrounded by just Marathi people will become a major bore because variety enriches and enlivens our lives.

Natalia said...

Dear Fawkes,

Since you said that you expected more from me, here is another piece of information. All the incidents stated here are illegalities and it is possible to lodge a complaint against them for the same.

Click here for more information

Natalia said...

Here is the link again

Nirav said...

Everywhere the problem is same. Be it rickshaw, taxi or basic things like foodgrains, vegetables, etc. It is the fact very well known that auto and taxi drivers are from north. But do you know that RTO and police officers are mostly from satara. Infact, i heard that there is one village in satara district where every family has atleast one person in police department. Isn't that surprising. These people come into police or RTO by using influence or giving money for position. Hence, they will take money from auto-taxi wallahs or road-side businesses to cover up there expenses which they had to bear while joining the force.

While media only loves people who can give money to them. I have two examples to prove that. You will have noticed every year in begining of monsoon these channels will say, i quote " prasasan ki koi tayyari nahi hai. Jagah-jagah pani bhar gaya hai". After few days, everything goes quite. The reason behind this, they got the reply from prasasan as they wished. Does it rain for three months in bombay?

Second example,CNBC. There is a program which is aired on this channel, YOUNG TURKS Of INDIA. In this program they interview people who has done good things for india through their business. Now tell me, why to inerview a child of a industrialist who has spent his entire childhood and got educated in a foreign country just to return to india and take over the business. What good has he done? Does he/she knows how to start a business if you do not have money. But my friends, this is our media. They will only work for money. Media has lost it's originality. If you observe, every news channels favours some or the other political parties.
This topic can be streched as long as we like. But the truth remains, the world is once again moving towards CAPITALISM. Richer gets richer and poor get poorer.

fawkes said...

Oye thanks for the link :) u've got serious.I went to Delhi few days back and now I totally understand it travelling one day in city may cost me more that my 1 day salary :) And I think you need a bike right? you can have my review on it :P which one? and keep writing, i like your blog :)

pRasad said...

Interesting post.. I am from Thane, panchpakhadi..& supporter of MNS(Maharashtrian afterall:D)..
But I don't think only North Indians cheat passengers..!

In fact in my opinion, during peak hours north indian rickshaw drivers take passengers even for short distance.. I have bad experience with Maharashtrian drivers..

But again, ppl from UP Biharis come to mumbai & make unions & what not..that has to be protested ! Fight for rights !

fawkes said...

When next blog will air?

Savio Pashana said...

hi Natalia...

I happened to come stumble upon your blog and I must say that like the points you've made in this particular post. Cutting the long story short, let me tell you the reason behind trying to contact you.

Let me start by introducing myself. I am Savio. Before going any further, i need to apologise for contacting you through a comment as i couldnt get your contact details on your profile. The thing is that i am starting a youth magazine soon and i need writers for the same. the magazine centers around social, economic and political issues. I will be happy to have you write for my magazine. If you are interested, pls mail me on

Hope to hear from you soon. Take care :)

Natalia said...

@Fawkes: I am glad you understand our predicaments. Next one coming up soon.

@Nirav: The media seriously does go bonkers especially without adequate protests from the public regarding a whole lot of nonsense being aired. As for the children of indutrialists, let them enjoy their privileges. There is enough for everybody in this country.

@Vinod: I have a rough draft in mind. Will tell you when I post it.

@rPrasad: Complain against anyone who cheats you no matter where they come from.

RS said...

Yea, right, all this happens only in Maharashtra and of course, only UP Wallahs and Biharis are crooked! Please open your eyes and see that it happens everywhere in India (and in the world) and we all, regardless of our caste/religion and region are guilty of it. Then why to single out Biharis and UP Wallahs. Just for the record, I am neither Bihari not UP-ite. It will do you well to venture out and see how things work outside of Maharashtra. Believe me, we all are in the same Sh*t and finger-pointing is going to do no good.

Natalia said...

Dear RS,

We know very well that the whole of India is facing this problem and that is precisely the reason I have writtn that the whole of India, each and evry state must implement the Motor Vehicles Act. Every person flouting the rules of the Act, irrespective of their native state, ought to be brought to the book.

Rahul Rg said...

Naive post really !! Crooked people exist everywhere. Am sure your goal wasn't to point fingers at a section of people, but that is exactly what you have done.

As for the reasons for the swindling of the money, every strata of society reflects the society in general. They work really hard with very less reward. Do you have any idea how much margins they make? This is India's story or atleast a part of India.. One which is made up of the really poor. Perhaps your blog could have been more on how we can try and rescue this class from turning to such swindling acts. Alas!! it focussed elsewhere.

Natalia said...

@Rahul Rg:

1. I HAVE pointed fingers at rickshaw and taxi drivers from Bihar and UP and with good reason. I wonder why we don't come across many poor people from other states doing the same. Poverty is no excuse for swindling customers. All of them are not and can't be crooks. If someone justifies gaining wealth by swindling, be sure they will continue to be cheaters even when they are well-off. Poor margins are no excuse for taking customers to wrong places, or for not knowing the area or for over-charging. The nuisance that taxi and rickshaw drivers (irrespective of region) have created in Mumbai had even led to the city calling for a Meter Jam on the 12th of August,2010.

2. As for the suggestions for raising the income levels of this class, that will call for an entirely different blog.

Niranjan said...

Hi Natalia (nice and unusual name..what does it mean?) I live in saket too and I completely agree with you on the rickshaw problem thing, but then I really feel this overcharging of fares inst restricted to a select group of north indian rickshawalas but cheats come from all communities and castes and regions to make this city proud, believe me yo uwill find a lot of locals into this too. In fact i have had bad experiences with marathi rickshaw walas and good experiences with UP rickshawalas so i think its not fair to just put north indians in the dock and judge based on a few unfortunate incidents.

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