Drivers upset as police 'forcibly' draft cabs for election work
Scores of cab drivers have been put to inconvenience as the City police, who are facing a severe shortage of vehicles, have started commandeering taxis for poll duties ahead of the May 5 elections.
The City police have been accused of resorting to subterfuge and in some cases, outright force, to press-gang taxis and their drivers for election-related tasks.
According to the law, the Election Commission can legally commandeer any vehicle for election duty, after serving a notice to the owner of the vehicle under Section 160 of the Representation of People’s Act, 1951.
But, for taxi drivers who have found themselves at the receiving end of police ‘strong-arm tactics,’ the law has done little good. They told Deccan Herald, that they have not been issued a notice as per the law and instead the police used a mix of trickery, assault and threats to force drivers to co-operate with them.
Prasanna, a driver, said he was driving his cab near Minerva Circle on Wednesday afternoon, when he was flagged down by a policeman. After he stopped, the policeman reportedly told Prasanna that a complaint had been filed against the vehicle.
“He told me that I needed to go to the Upparpet police station,” Prasanna said. “They sent a constable with me in the cab. However, the constable forced me to go to the Central College grounds. Here, they said that my vehicle had been procured for election duty and served me notice.”
When Prasanna protested asking that he be released so that he could earn his day’s wages, the police allegedly abused him. “After this, I had no choice but to promise to participate in election duties on the stated date and place, but they took away my keys and locked the gates,” he explained.
The experience of other drivers is hardly any different. Jagadeesh, a cab driver with OLA Cabs, had been driving near Ananda Rao Circle on Wednesday afternoon when he was stopped by a sub-inspector from Upparpet. “The officer asked for a drop to Central College grounds,” Jagadeesh said.
“I was on my way to MG Road to pick up a client. But, when a policeman asks for a drop, you can’t refuse. I took him to the college, but after we entered the grounds, the gates were locked behind me and I was informed that the cab was procured for election duty. When I protested, the sub-inspector abused me and even slapped me twice.”
OLA cabs has now fined Jagadeesh Rs 3,000 for missing a pickup.
The cab drivers criticised the police for targeting individuals, instead of hiring taxis from bigger travel agencies.
Mahantesh, employed with Meru Cabs, said he had to pay the company Rs 1,800 daily as rent for the cab. Many cab drivers, whose vehicles have been procured for election work, said that not only have they lost their earnings for the last two days, but have also been forced to pay the vehicle rent from their pockets.
M A Saleem, Additional Commissioner (Traffic and Security), said procurement of vehicles was legal and common during all elections. “I spoke to major travel companies a few months ago and requested them to provide vehicles for election duties. None of them, however, responded and hence we have been forced to commandeer cabs on road.”
Asked about compensation to drivers, he promised that they would be paid according to government rates at the end of their election duties.
Ramesh, a cab driver, expressed scepticism at this. He said his cab had been commandeered during the BBMP elections in 2010.
“Even after three years, I am yet to receive the payment,” he said.