Teenagers fight rickshaw rip-off

After reading Mirror report, two Class 11 students track down overcharging driver, take him to RTO where officials help them get back their dues
 Freakin' Awesome! Freakin' Awesome! Freakin' Awesome! Freakin' Awesome! Freakin' Awesome!
Posted On Wednesday, March 14, 2012 at 02:14:45 AM

You might dismiss them as kids. But Prajval Somani and Akash Jha proved to be quite a match for an autowallah who overcharged them. The Class 11 students tracked down the driver and brought him to the Regional Transport Office where the officials helped them in getting back their dues.
RTO official Mahendra Patel greets Akash Jha (second from right), Prajval Somani (checked shirt)  and their friends
The 16-year-olds woke up to Mirror’s report ‘Fare unfair’ on Tuesday morning. Prajval said, “When we read the Mirror story about auto drivers using fake cards, it shocked us. We realised we had been royally duped by a rickshaw driver.”
He added, “We are four friends from various parts of the state who stay at a house in Indraprasth Towers on Drive-In Road because we are also preparing for our IIT-JEE exams at a city institute. We frequently travel by rickshaw. On the night of March 3, Akash and I returned from Junagadh and got down from the bus at Paldi. On arriving home, we realised that we had forgotten our digital camera on the bus. It was around 3 am. We rushed down and caught a rickshaw (GJ1-CV-5099) to Paldi. The bus was not at the spot. Someone told us we might be able to flag it down at Nikol if we hurry. We went on to Nikol but did not find the bus so we came back to Drive-In.”

Akash said, “Rickshawallah Ajay asked for Rs 600. We had only Rs 200 on us. We asked for Ajay’s phone number so that we could give him the remaining money later. The next day, we paid him the full amount.”

Prajval, who hails from Gandhinagar, said, “The Mirror report, however, opened our eyes. We realised that we had racked up 1,000 points on the auto meter. This meant we should have been charged only Rs 228 (as per deda bhaada or night charge), and not Rs 600. We were determined to reclaim Rs 372 from Ajay. We called him up and asked him to return the amount. But he refused to admit his fault and began arguing. When Ajay realised we would not back down, he began abusing us. When we told him that we would complain to the Regional Transport Office about him, he said, ‘Tum kya RTO le jaaoge. Main wahan jaanta hoon logon ko. Main le jaata hoon tumhe wahan (How dare you threaten me with a trip to the RTO? I know people there. I’ll take you along)’.”

The boys managed to bring the driver to the transport office where they spoke to the officials about the Mirror exposé. Mahendra Patel, chief assistant to the RTO, gave them a patient hearing. Convinced that the driver had overcharged them, Patel made him apologise to the boys for abusing them. He also made the driver give them the remaining amount. 

Prajval said, “We were in a dilemma about approaching a government office. We thought the officers would harass us and no one would listen to our complaint. However, when we saw the correct rate card and the helpline numbers given in Mirror, we decided to take a chance. The RTO officials were very helpful. They not only helped us get our money back, they made the driver sorry for abusing us.”

Ajay fled the RTO immediately after paying the boys. 

These teenagers stood up for what they believed in. Will you?

‘People should take a stand against dishonest auto drivers’

Through your exposé ‘Fare unfair’ (AM, March 13), you have brought to fore a problem that has been plaguing Amdavadis for long. Most auto drivers are dishonest. Responsible officials must enforce proper norms to rectify this situation. Also, people should be aware of the law so they can take a stand against autorickshaw drivers.
-Paras Kela

I want to congratulate you for covering the auto menace. It will bring great relief to many of us who travel by rickshaw everyday. It is sad how rickshaw drivers get their way always. If I want to go somewhere, I would have to ask the autowallah ‘Jaoge kya?’  And four out of five would reply, ‘Nahi, humko ulte taraf jaana hain’.  I hope your article brings much needed attention to this sort of dadagiri.  I am glad to know that rickshaw drivers cannot refuse to take you to any destination.- Prakash Motwani
by e-mail
Nowadays, when fuel rates are increasing constantly, travelling has become costlier. In addition to that, rickshaw drivers charge unfair rates and put unwanted burden on commuters. We hope that your article will catch the attention of legal authorities and culprits will be punished in forthcoming days.- Milan Pandya
by e-mail
Your article is really useful. At Kalupur Railway Station, around 7.30 am, drivers refuse to ferry passengers to Lal Darwaza as the distance is short. If a driver agrees, he will charge deda bhaada  (night charge) or take a lumpsum amount, 
higher than the regular fare. The authorities must do something about this daylight robbery. 
- Javed A Q
Mirror has done a good job. But when will the authorities wake up? They know that 99 per cent autowallahs in this city use flag meters as showpieces. The vehicles also have round meters but the authorities take no action against the drivers. - Nisarg Shah
I appreciate Mirror  for taking up this issue. Strict action should be taken against these rikshawallahs for using forged rate cards and using round meters. I thank you for spreading awareness about this racket.