I was coming back home by train and got down at Kanjurmarg station (the nearest railway station to Powai). For a few days now, the private lane that connects the station to LBS marg is shut for outside vehicles.
On Wednesday, outside Kanjurmarg station, some people had set up a table and were holding placards. They were gathering signatures to “ban illegal autos” from that lane.
They asked me, and others walking around, to sign that petition. I asked them what they meant by the term “illegal autos”. The term in itself was vague to me. I knew the auto-rickshaws here were exceedingly troublesome, but I couldn’t see how it was illegal. They told me that it wasn’t about autos being illegal, it was about them using that private lane illegally.
If you don’t travel by train regularly or don’t know various problems one has to face at this particular station, please read the following article: https://powai.info/2018/10/26/kanjurmarg-railway-station/
The occupation of the road leading to the station by auto-rickshaws is not only troublesome to the commuters but also to the residents of nearby societies. Since the road is blocked, the residents of these societies find it extremely difficult to get their vehicles in and out. The decibel levels are equally painful and disturb the peace of the area throughout the day. The residents of nearby societies have taken this initiative to disallow auto-rickshaws from entering that street so that they can live peacefully.
I suggested that instead of completely banning the auto-rickshaws, they could instead stricten the rules. They could allow the autos to use a part of the road and ask the autos to mandatorily maintain lane discipline. And if the autos still occupy the entire area, they could charge hefty fines. The residents responded by saying that they had tried the above method about 5-6 times, but it was a disastrous failure. Apparently, now they have no option but to legally ban the auto-rickshaws to enter the road.
Being a regular commuter, I know how problematic these auto-rickshaws get on a daily basis. So, I signed the petition and I took a few photographs of the demonstrations that took place. I went out on the main road and took an auto to get back home.
To my surprise, a few metres ahead on LBS road, a gang of autowalas had parked their vehicles. They asked the other autos to reject passengers who may have signed the petition. They had seen me sign the petition and also take photographs. I had taken an auto outside, to go back home, and a bunch of protesting autowalas recognised me. They stopped the auto-rickshaw I was in and told me to move out of it. This happened twice.
They said, "If you have a problem with autos, don’t travel in one.”
“Firstly, you are not legally allowed to stop me from travelling," I replied. "I have no problem with autos. The problem arises when you guys misuse the space given to you. I signed the petition against the illegal use of private space, not against auto-rickshaws as a whole.”
The autowalas told me that by signing the petition I was causing inconvenience to a lot of passengers who want to go home from the station. That because of me many people won’t get an auto.
I retorted, “I am one of those people who wants to go home from the station. I had got 2 autos, but you guys prevented me from getting into one. If you cooperate and follow disciplined guidelines, you can ensure that you do not reject any passenger. If you guys are not willing to carry passengers to their destination on a regulated metered price, we can’t help but take action. Also, there are many such commuters like me who have signed the petition, are you going to reject everyone?”
They still refused to carry me. I bluntly told them that they are not the only means of transport we have here. Then I took the BEST bus.
The signature desk is still there near the station (I don’t know for how long). I appeal to all of you to do your bit towards traffic regulations and take a few minutes to put your signature. Preventing misuse of our roads is the first step to make our transportation more effective. Because ever since the turn towards the station is blocked for outside vehicles, the traffic there has somewhat eased.
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