Commuters head for pre-paid booths to avoid being fleeced

new delhi: irked by the overcharging by autorickshaw and taxi drivers, an increasing number of commuters are using pre-paid services. the traffic police say their number had crossed 14 lakh by september this year. ‘‘people are satisfied by the pre-paid booths managed by the traffic police. they are turning to these booths more than before,’’ said maxwell pereira, joint commissioner of police (traffic). till september, 9,43,523 persons used pre-paid services for autorickshaws and 4,77,226 for taxis. of the 28 pre-paid booths in the city, the most popular ones are at the airports, railway stations and bus terminuses. ‘‘traditionally, they have always drawn most of the users. but these days, activity at even the other booths is picking up,’’ said a traffic official managing the pre-paid operations. ‘‘most commuters rely on pre-paid services as we maintain a record of the auto or taxi, along with its driver and owner. the drivers, therefore, cannot afford to overcharge or misbehave with the passengers,’’ said arun kampani, deputy commissioner of police (new delhi) traffic. the pre-paid scheme started in 1986 from indira gandhi international airport, and later branched out to other places. like other public utility services in the capital, attempts are made to circumvent even this facility. ‘‘touts swarm booths and try to bully passengers. such practices are curbed by policemen posted around the booth,’’ said a traffic official. at one time, the situation was so bad at igi airport that touts were calling the shots. ‘‘we successfully conducted a drive with the local police to remove them,’’ pereira said. the traffic police feel the popularity of their booths is not going to be affected by new entrants like the private taxi services. ‘‘their fares include luxury charges and come to about five times the normal auto or taxi rates,’’ said an official. ‘‘if there are pre-paid booths in every shopping complex, the fleecing could end.’’ said jnu research student sandeep singh, a regular commuter on autorickshaws. ‘‘the 29-odd booths are enough for the city. moreover, these are managed by the traffic police on a no-profit basis, charging just re 1 as service charges. this money is used to pay the honorarium of the staff,’’ pereira said.

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