Tirupati Auto Workers’ Union staged a protest in front of the traffic police station against the e-challan system on Friday, June 28. The union, which is affiliated to the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), expressed their discontent over the misuse of the e-challan system by the city’s traffic police which has made it difficult for the drivers to sustain financially.
Speaking to NewsClick, P. Murali, Chittoor District Secretary, AITUC, shared the plight of an auto-rickshaw driver who faces everyday harassment of the traffic police. According to him, the e-challan system has only made it easier to fine the drivers randomly and they do it to meet their pre-determined revenue targets.
E-challan system allows the traffic police officers to capture the photo of the number plate, upload it on the server and send the receipt of the fine directly to the home of the offender.
It is true that the use of an end-to-end automated system has allowed the traffic police to expedite the process of penalising the traffic offenders which, one can also argue, is a progressive step towards decreasing the number of cases of traffic rules violation. However, the ease of technology has only made life more difficult for the rickshaw drivers of the city, who are frustrated with the random and ill-founded fines.
“The e-challans save the traffic police officers from providing an explanation behind their decisions to fine a driver. The situation has become so worse that a rickshaw driver receives a challan even if he must have stopped to let the passengers in and out of the vehicle,” said Murali.
“The minimum challan is of ₹1000 and if not paid within four days, a penalty of ₹2000 is imposed over the initial fine,” he added.
He further alleged, “We have drivers in our union who have received up to five challans in a single week. The only reason for such an obsession to penalise the drivers is that the traffic cops are looking to meet their minimum challan targets.”
The drivers of these auto-rickshaws usually come from the economically weaker sections of the population, many of them being the only breadwinners for their families. These individuals usually drive rickshaws that are owned by someone else and pay a fixed amount in return as rent. The delivery of challans directly to the owner of the vehicles and not to the driver, in this case, also threatens the contract between the two which eventually puts the driver in a financial jeopardy.
Lack of parking area is another issue that the auto drivers are facing in the city. The local administration has failed in providing enough parking spaces for the auto-rickshaws which forces them to stop on the roadside.
The union met the district’s deputy superintendent of traffic police and submitted a list of their demands which included: scrapping of e-challan system, putting an end to the traffic police harassment and also banning permission for new auto rickshaws. Though no assurance was given on the scrapping of the app-based challan system, the union was promised that the police’s harassment and the random penalisation of drivers will be stopped.
In the recent past, various strikes have been launched by the drivers’ unions of app-based cab services who have persistently raised demands for more incentives, and state’s intervention in regulating the cab aggregators.
In the age of application-based taxi services like Ola and Uber, the auto-rickshaw drivers in metropolitan cities are already left with very few options to achieve financial security. Though this has not been the case for the auto-rickshaw drivers in tier-2 and tier-3 cities yet, the drivers – due to alleged malpractices by the local administration – don’t find themselves in a position any better than the former.
Also read: Transport Workers’ Strike: Public Transports Keep Off Roads Across The Country