When I say this, the first thing a Mumbaikar/Bombayite will say, “we’re used to it, now we can tell which cabbie is honest or not.” This is NOT about taxiwalas being honest. This is about YOUR right as a passenger.
Firstly, there are many rules in the constitution of the Taximen’s Union-remember it is still registered as a Union, hence they have to draft a constitution & are compelled to abide by it-Which has many pro-passenger rights, likewise protection of the cabbies’ rights.
Now trace your memory back by few minutes or hours. How many times has it happened that you are left stranded on the road feeling like absolute piece of shit only because these arrogant b#$%^*%s smirked, didn’t even to respond or mocked listening to your destination? You’ve felt road rage, wanted to beat, few like me say, “chutiye dombivli jana hai kya?” or I simply open the door & leave it, threaten to beat or hit the bonnet.
Let me tell you, we do NOT have the time or we simply don’t bother to take down number plate details, send it to the taximen union at Navjeevan society & copy of that complaint to the police station. Traffic police launched a campaign in our-passenger’s –favour. They have a set of complaint cards. We have to write details. If a cabbie refuses, they can be taken to the police, they have to wear their uniforms, their badges. If they don’t you can complain. we say how many to complain against?
Write their badge nos, vehicle no, badge nos. But we simply won’t do it. We are in this terrible Mumbai’s mad rush. “Kisko padi hai. Kaun is jhanjhat mein padega?” But the fact is you can’t be refused.
Coming to another important fact is that few know the taxi night fare was first based on the fuel pricing. May be before many were born, or my generation & above till when we were in school the petrol & diesel prices would vary in the morning & night. The scarcity of fuel drove the union to form this pricing policy. Then came into being day & night meter charges. Now many think it is because of the night shift. No this night shift may have been an additional incentive but that was NOT the cause for this pricing.
Having covered the civic beat for half my life & more so many a taxiwala has been my source, they will tell you the gory truths about their occupation. There are only handful who will NEVER say NO. they take passengers even for short distances. Most refuse. Many others have ‘setting’ deal with regular customers. Mind you that works 50-50 for both the cabbie & passenger.
Why then do we take a cabbie at night & say ‘day charge mein chalega?’ and if it were based on night shift system, why would they agree? Quadros the taximen union will admit (which has on record), no one has ever challenged the night shift meter concept. Till the CNG came into being. CNG as a fuel option was forced by the Bombay High Court. Pl a lot of good we have in the society today is ONLY thanks to our activists & the judiciary. The courts have asked the ancient, fuel guzzling, pollution emitting vehicles Premier Padminis to go off the roads they don’t. They said within 6 months compulsory change to CNG. We breathe easier today. The padminis give back ache, they are beyond their expiry date, yet we allow. We say poor things. Take a break guys.
There are laws & the govt with the unions has helped the taximen make the change. They have 4 compulsory shifts. It is across board. There are authentic license holders & those that are not. There is a lot we don’t know about ONLY because we as citizens don’t bother to learn, find out. Yes, many may accuse me that being a journalist I know all of this. No, you will be surprised. I ALWAYS get the same response. “Leave it Neeta, how many will you fight with, how many people will you try to change.” Why not? Why should I let be? Why can’t I as a citizen get my right?
How many stop the taxi at midnight pay the cabbie the day charge & then ask him to drop the meter again? How many even know of this? We don’t because we never bother to ask anyone. The taximen’s union has made it mandatory to have the rules in the taxi like meter card. How many have it? How many of us bother to read & ask for it.?
The taximen will admit, the RULE says –at midnight wherever the passenger is takes the taxi to side, pays the charges according to the day rate & then the taxiwala has to drop the meter again as per the night charges. Wherever you may be, this is in favour of the passenger.
Now the fuel has changed, every time prices fluctuate rules are meter card to change. Whenever there has been a roll back, the taximen Union has NOT rolled back the fare. Does anyone know the cost of CNG per litre? The minimum fare? Now that fare is same at day & night how much more the commuter is paying? Well you are paying well over the real cost. The taxiwalas themselves will tell you, and say, “Abhi hum kya kar sakte mehengayi badh rahi hai?” Yes but over-charging can’t be the excuse for inflation.
Only the Mumbai Grahak Panchayat took the BEST & Taximen union to the Consumer & then to Bombay High Court. Challenging the disparity in the meter & then no roll-back. Interestingly, no one even bothered to read about it, forget being happy of the result. The BEST earlier would charge us 0.5p for army welfare persons. Did we ever bother to find out whether any army person ever got any money? Whether BEST sent the amount, how much was it? It was well over 50 years.
Also, you can complain to the BEST HQ at worli. I did once & the officer showed me 50 written complaints, mostly senior citizens & women. There are some who want to fight for their rights & are doing. If you are wronged, bus doesn’t stop at the stop, at least note the bus no & exact time, go & lodge a complaint. The BEST has thorough route maps & details, they book the erring conductors, drivers even for misbehaviour. They have proper hearings & are unbiased.
The fact that BEST fare also was based on petrol on diesel & now fuel switch has been to CNG. What is cost effectiveness? We don’t want to. Excuses are galore. The night shifts have always got double charges. May be pre-free economy. Once Indian economy too became global we come under NO govt rules. There are NO night shift charges now, especially in the [private sector. ONLY in the government sector there were, now there isn’t extra charge. The hours have been adjusted and the workers night shift concept has changed.
That apart. The hysteria, masses coming out on the streets, feeling frustrated is all fine. Stop think, introspect. Have we done enough ourselves? Remember what the real Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change that you want.”
We have to be curious about everything. We can’t take this stand “this doesn’t affect me so forget it,” and that is why where we are today. Each one of us can, in baby steps in our own lives. more important –do things for yourselves. Even if it means giving that extra time for your own right. Don’t be taken for a ride & then say, “I’m a victim.”