Mumbai: Out of the 5,844 cases slapped on Mumbai auto and taxi drivers in the first 10 months of 2018-19 financial year for traffic and other violations, nearly 1000 cases were of fare refusal- a staggering rise of 66 per cent from 2017-18. Also Read - Mumbai: BEST Driver Suffers Heart Attack Behind Wheel, Rams Into Vegetable Shop

Among other violations are meter tampering, rude behaviour towards passenger, driving without a uniform or a badge, according to data published by the transport department till January 31. Also Read - Navratri 2020: Patients Perform 'Garba' With Health Workers at Mumbai's COVID-19 Center | Watch

Reportedly, cases of meter tampering or faulty meters have dipped by almost 50 per cent from 199 in 2017-18 to 102 this year but instances of rude behaviour have gone up by 63 per cent- especially by auto drivers in the suburbs. Also Read - Maharashtra Latest News: Monorails Resume Operations in Mumbai With Strict COVID-19 Protocols

RTOs (Regional Transport Office) at Tardeo (island city), Wadala (eastern suburbs), Andheri and Borivli (western suburbs) suspended 1,320 licences and 1,241 permits, and recovered Rs 38.5 lakh in fines in 2018-19.

Commuter rights activist AV Shenoy suggested that RTOs should impose stringent penalty on errant auto and taxi drivers and furtheron ensure that citizens get quality service.

A Times of India report quoted Shenoy, “Commuters pay hefty fares. They deserve a ride in a vehicle that is in good running condition with a proper meter and not be refused for short-distance routes.”

Meanwhile, a member of the Mumbai Autorickshawmen’s Union blamed the menace on illegal share autos that carry four or more passengers as opposed to mandated three riders. The TOI report said, “They ply mainly in Andheri, Jogeshwari and Borivli. Cartels of drivers also referred to as ‘auto mafia’ exist in Kurla, Bandra, including Bandra Terminus and LTT, and airport areas. Many of them have ‘ghoda meters’… (which run fast and show inflated fares.)”

The state transport commissioner Shekhar Channe, who at times, travels by auto and taxi, assured that he has taken a serious view of all complaints and challans.

On the other hand, defending autos and taxis plying in Mumbai, taxi union leader AL Quadros refuted reports of increased number of cases against drivers over fare refusal. He said that kaali-peeli taxis have been serving the public for decades and have always worked under the realms of the laid framework.

Of late, many commuters have been suggesting that the present auto meter system be replaced with a GPS-enabled meter, which would give an exact fare according to distance and time taken.