Despite the High Court order directing authorities to demarcate separate stands for auto taxis plying in the city, the civic bodies, Regional Transport Office and the Police are yet to seriously consider the directive.
The High Court had issued an order on September 1, 2013, to delineate a separate area for auto taxis at Perumbavoor in the wake of complaints by drivers that they were being manhandled by autorickshaw drivers.
The Court on January issued an interim relief for auto taxi drivers at Kakkanad.
In both cases, the authorities were told to delineate two separate stands -one for auto taxis and the other for autorickshaws - to avoid any tussle between them.
However, months after the orders were issued, auto taxi drivers continue to be threatened and are yet to get an alternative stand for their vehicles.
“We were forced to approach the High Court following constant threats from autorickshaw drivers. However, despite a favourable order, the Thrikkakara Municipality has not bothered to take our situation seriously. They informed us that they have to put the matter before the Council. Finally, we were forced to set up a stand at our own risk. We spent at least `2.75 lakh for purchasing these vehicles but are still unable to make a decent living,” said Mohammed, an auto taxi driver in Kakkanad. Though the High Court has asked the police officials to involve in demarcation of a stand, they too have not responded, he added.
Meanwhile, the authorities have already started a blame game.
“It is the responsibility of the Kochi Corporation or the civic body concerned to demarcate stands for auto taxis. The responsibility of the police is to provide protection in case of any threats. Unless the Corporation or the municipality concerned take a decision regarding this, we don’t have to intervene,” Traffic Police Assistant Commissioner Baby Vinod.
Kochi Corporation Mayor Tony Chammany said no concrete action plan has been made to demarcate separate auto taxi stands in the city.
If the figures provided by the auto taxi owners are to be believed, there are at least over 400 auto taxis operating in Ernakulam alone.
“We are being constantly tormented citing that we are neither taxis nor autorickshaws. However, if we are not considered as autorickshaws, then why were we told not to operate during the autorikshaw strike. A couple of autori kshaw drivers had roughed up some of our drivers when they operated during the indefinite strike,” said Shafas, another auto taxi driver.