Auto drivers 'pay' for helping AAP

It is payback time for Arvind Kejriwal. The auto drivers of Delhi deluged the Aam Aadmi Party auto helpline number with complaints of harassment and corruption. 

Now his government plans to strip police of their power to fine auto drivers – a step that threatens to jeopardise commuters’ interest. He had a series of meetings with senior transport department officials to work out the modalities for the change. 

Following a Supreme Court order a few days ago, Delhi Police launched various helplines for commuters to register their complaints; a guarantee against cases of refusal and overcharging. In a bid to assure women’s safety, this step was considered important. 

Moti Nagar, Turkman Gate, Punjabi Bagh and Hari Nagar were among some of the places from where calls kept coming on the AAP’s auto helpline number, said Sanjay Chawla, pointing out that he saw a pattern. 

He manages the party’s auto cell, created to guard the party’s key vote bank.

Chawla suspects that the auto drivers who supported the party in its electoral campaign are now being penalised for their loyalty. Police are registering “false refusal” cases against auto drivers, he said.

“There are women constables in plainclothes who ask how much the auto wallah would charge for a certain place. They tell you, ‘we are asking just to take an idea’. And they wait for you to quote a price. The moment you tell them a price, you are challaned,” he added, quoting an instance. 

In a public meeting with Girish Soni, a cabinet minister in Kejriwal’s government, a section of auto drivers from his constituency had similar complains. “Some policemen tell you, ‘You had Kejriwal’s picture at the back of your auto, now pay the penalty,’” said an auto driver.

Kejriwal also assured that his government will abolish penal section 66/192 (A) of the Motor Vehicles Act, which gives power to the Delhi Traffic Police to confiscate vehicles. The law has been grossly misused, he said.

The party has succeeded in keeping the auto drivers’ demand for a fare hike at bay, following the hike in CNG prices. The auto drivers’ were promised sops from the government, which included Kejriwal’s new announcement and more. 

“Auto drivers were asked to promise good conduct in return,” said Chawla.

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