MUMBAI: In a first, the Maharashtra transport department has revoked licenses of 918 auto-rickshaw drivers in Mumbai and neighbouring Thane city for refusing fare, an official said on Wednesday.
Till now, licenses were cancelled for offences like furnishing fake documents to get permits, but not for refusing fare, a senior transport official told PTI.
"This is the first time that the department has acted against auto-rickshaw drivers for refusing fare," he said.
"Transport commissioner Shekhar Channe recently launched the drive under which licenses of 918 auto-rickshaw drivers were revoked for refusing fare in last few months in Mumbai and Thane," he said.
Earlier, the transport department's data was not accessible online and drivers used to get licenses in different names, assistant regional transport officer Tanaji Chavan said.
"But everything is online now and these drivers won't be able to procure another license in any other name anywhere in the country," he said.
According to another official, the regional transport office (RTO) suspended licenses of 12,342 auto drivers for various traffic rules violations in last six months.
Of these, licenses of 918 drivers, particularly from areas like Kurla, Bandra, Bandra- Kurla Complex (BKC) and Lokmanya Tilak Terminus in Mumbai and neighbouring Thane city, were cancelled for refusing fare, he said.
Chavan said the transport department formed 14 special squads to track these drivers following complaints from several commuters.
Meanwhile, Mumbai Auto-Rickshaw Men's Union leader Shashank Rao said the authorities should be lenient with first-time offenders.
"Auto-rickshaw drivers are not on the road to refuse fares. First-time offenders should be shown some leniency," he said.
"But, at the same time I would also like to say that all cases (of refusal or violations) are not genuine. We have won such cases in the past. I would be making a representation to the RTO," Rao said.
Lauding the move, a commuter who daily travels from Santacruz station to Milan Subway in suburban Andheri, said, "These auto-rickshaw drivers deserve such an action."