Auto Raj rules Cuttack roads as police surrenders

Emboldened by the police inaction, autos are breaking every safety rule with impunity
Auto rickshaw drivers flouting traffic norm on busy Dolamundai road | Express
Auto rickshaw drivers flouting traffic norm on busy Dolamundai road | Express

CUTTACK: It is virtually auto-raj on Cuttack roads. Thanks to the inefficiency, apathy of Cuttack police, who seem to have completely washed their hands off their responsibility of making city roads safe, the auto-rickshaws have turned into a living nightmare for the hapless citizens.

Emboldened by the police inaction and absolute lack of any enforcement or regulation, the auto-rickshaws have unleashed themselves on the roads breaking every rule with sheer impunity. Illegal parking, dangerous driving, over-speeding and overloading - name any rule breaker, all have become the norm for auto drivers who have no fear of law or action.

Rash driving and overloaded three-wheelers are a common sight on the busy streets of the city, causing traffic jams and other problems. They have turned the Badamabi bus stand, Cuttack Railway station, OMP Square bus stop, Madupatna bus stop, SCB Medical and  Collectorate square, etc., into their personal fiefdom where no one enters or plies without their permission. The harassed and hassled citizens have nowhere to go.

At least 8,000 auto-rickshaws ply in and around the city. As per section 32 of Bhubaneswar-Cuttack Police Commissionerate (Traffic and Public Order) Act, a three-wheeler can carry a maximum of four passengers- one on the front seat and three in the rear. Giving a damn to the rule, the auto drivers carry six to seven and even 10 passengers which often result in mishaps.

The auto-rickshaws halt in the middle of the roads at will to pick up, drop or negotiate with passengers. The drivers are not scared of anyone, not even the traffic police. “The Commissionerate Police, which conducts regular checks to penalise illegally parked four-wheelers and two-wheeler riders without helmets, has turned a blind eye to the biggest menace on the city roads. Even pedestrians are facing problems due to the three-wheelers,” said Sirish Kumar Mohapatra, a resident of Badambadi.

Sources said, a majority of the auto-rickshaws are plying in the city without mandatory documents like driver’s licence, fitness certificate and insurance. Apart from rash driving and illegal parking, many drivers are intoxicated while driving and often misbehave with helpless commuters. Some of them also assault, loot and even threaten their passengers with dire consequences.

On June 30, 2019 night, an auto-rickshaw driver stoned a passenger to death at Betabindhani Sahi ground in Khannagar after robbing him of cash and valuables. He was assisted in the crime by three associates including the son of the vehicle owner.DCP Pinak Mishra said police will carry out a special drive against rash driving, illegal parking and overloading by auto-rickshaws.  But, the city residents are not convinced.

“The facile drive may bring relief for few days. But after that, the auto mafia will be back to their routine. We cannot understand what is holding the police back from performing a key duty – to make roads safe for people and protect them from harassment. Why are police’s hands tied? The menace can never be curbed if regular enforcement activities are not carried out and fear of immediate action is not drilled into them,” rued a local.

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The New Indian Express