HYDERABAD: In spite of traffic police detaining over 150 autorickshaws in two months for carrying too many school children, sight of an autorickshaw crammed with children, wading through city traffic everyday evokes little response from the authorities.
What prompts parents to use these services, despite the dangers involved, is anyone’s guess. N Radha sends her son to school and tennis classes in an autorickshaw meant exclusively for her child. “I am paying extra out of my own pocket so as not to send my son in an over-crowded autorickshaw,” said the parent of the 11-year-old.
Many parents were apprehensive about the option of using public transport for their school going children. “No! No way I would prefer an RTC bus for my child. He has to go to school on time and there is no guarantee when the next bus will come we can’t rely on it,” said another parent from Vanastalipuram who uses the autorickshaw service.
“Most parents want familiarity, someone who they can trust their child with,” said an auto driver from the Begumpet. “I pick and drop the child from the doorstep. The school and public buses won’t do that nor will they wait if the child is late.”
“Overloading (of autorickshaws) is a serious problem in Hyderabad like in any other Indian city,” said AV Ranganath, deputy commissioner of police (DCP), Traffic. “We have conducted special drives and are counselling parents to discourage the practice,” he added.
Since the police launched the drive to keep tabs on autorickshaws engaged in the practice, from June more than 2,000 autorickshaws have been seized.
“We have suspended permits on various cases of violations,” the DCP said. “About 15 days ago we caught an auto that was overloaded with children and the driver was drunk, we arrested him and he is now in prison,” he added.
Meanwhile, some auto drivers are still unsure about the rules that define overcrowding. “I charge `1,500 for each child and do not carry more than six small children, the police will say something only if I carry more. I have never been stopped by the police and drive right in front of them with children in the auto,” said an auto driver. “Some say three is too much, others say six,” said another auto driver who drives in and around Panjagutta.