news Thursday, June 26, 2014 - 05:30
The News Minute | June 26, 2014 | 4:56 PM IST  Rachita is an activist who settled in Bangalore two years ago. Many auto drivers in many of our cities and towns have the dubious distinction of flouting rules, over charging and there have been reported case of verbal and physical assaults on commuters.  Rachna is also one among those who react against auto drivers who charge her excess money. Her usual routine is to note the auto’s number and file a complaint with the traffic police, who will later fine the auto driver for charging excessively.  On Tuesday evening Rachita and her friend got into a similar fight with an auto driver for charging them 150 rupees for a ride of roughly two kilometres. She picked up her phone and took a photo of the auto’s number plate. But things went horribly wrong after this. She was verbally and physically harassed by the auto-driver demanding her to delete the photo. Rachita put up a Facebook post narrating the whole incident and appealing for help. The post said- “Last evening, an auto driver demanded my friend and I pay him 150 rs for a 2 kms journey. I took a photo of the auto's number plate so I could file a complaint to the traffic cops later. I do this a lot, even when I'm travelling alone. As soon as I turned to walk away, the auto driver started grabbing my shoulder and arms and screaming at me in Kannada demanding that I delete the photo. I tried to get his hands off me and walk faster but he wouldn't budge. Then he started taking photographs of me (took some 15 of them) and threatened me. My friend stood between us trying to protect me from being photographed, grabbed and hit. I tried to quickly hail another auto to just get out of there but this guy along with 5-10 other auto drivers stood in front of the auto. He got into the front seat with the other auto driver, threatened to hurt him if he drove and started taking photos of me while I was in the back seat. This all happened with around 15 people standing around and watching. It felt like my friend (a guy) was the only thing keeping them from attacking me properly/ shoving me into an auto and driving off. Anyway, an auto union rep came and held the guy down till my friend and I walked away some 50 meters and got an auto and got out of there. This morning- I went to the police to file an FIR (I'd already filed a complaint with the traffic police for the overcharging business). At the police station, I was mocked for not knowing Kannada, had to repeat my story to five officers who disregarded the entire thing as being the duty of the traffic police guys. When I told one officer that I was harassed and wanted to file an FIR- I was told "don't file an FIR otherwise the auto Union will pursue you personally". Finally, after being made fun of for a bit at the station and going to 10 different rooms, I managed to sound stern enough to get a complaint registered (it seemed like I was interrupting their tea time which made the process of getting that complaint filed take twice as long). I have all the conversations I had at the station recorded on my cellphone. After all the money that's being spent to ensure protection of women in public spaces, transportation and all the money that's being pumped into the police to ensure the process is smooth and not adding to the stress of being harassed- this is still happening." Further, when The News Minute reached out to Rachita, she shared her dismay about the attitude the police showed to her case. “I was told by the traffic police that if I wanted to take up case against the auto-driver I had to approach the police station. So on Wednesday morning I set off to the Ashok Nagar station.” Rachita says “I was asked to wait for a long time, had to re-tell my story to at least five different officers. When I insisted that I do want an FIR filed, they first warned me that the Auto Union guy will come for me. I was appalled; I thought it is the duty of the police to protect us. After I kept insisting that an FIR should be filed, they asked me to wait till evening, because apparently only a woman officer can file my FIR. I told them that I do not have an issue narrating the incidents to male officer, but they said no. Further they just registered my complaint and told me they will find him and “teach him a lesson”. Rachita says that she has been getting a lot of support following her post, which underlines that this is an issue that is going unnoticed. “It is not a one-off incident, one of my friends, a married girl was molested by an auto driver, but who will act against all this” she says. Rachita further adds - “There are a lot of crime that happens in which the auto drivers have a crucial role, but most of the times they are not scared. The issue should be brought into attention of whomsoever concerned”.
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