Last week Delhi Government suspended licenses of two automobile dealers— Bagga Link Services Limited and JS Automobiles— after complaints filed by social workers and Presidents of Autorickshaw Unions for charging extra money from the customers. The government, in a show cause notice, asked the two dealers to reply with the reason for the extra charge else their licenses will be cancelled.An autorickshaw which should cost close to Rs 1,80,000 on road is sold for Rs 5,50,000 in the market. There are several extra charges on top which include logistic charges, annual maintenance charges etc. An extra handling charge was also added along with the GST since August, about which most of the drivers did not know.In petitions filed by Narendra Giri, President of the Pragatisheel Auto Union, and social workers from different NGOs, in the High Court, the discrepancies and the stronghold of auto finance mafia were highlighted which led to the temporary suspension of the two market leaders in autorickshaw dealing.“Supreme Court had passed 1,00,000 auto rickshaws in 2011, out which 55,000 were already on the road, 35,000 more were issued between 2011 and 2014. The last 10,000 got delayed and then were eyed by finance mafias. Those who bought had to pay hefty amounts as procuring ‘Letters of Intent’ to secure an auto unit became a difficult task. But most importantly, buyers had to pay additional charges with GST etc, thus in-total, the Autorickshaws have become very expensive,” said Giri.Even though the license was suspended for a short while, the Union members now look for stronger steps by the government. They are demanding cancellation of these dealer’s license and formation of a committee which looks into these permit procurements.EXPERT SPEAKThese dealers had been charging logistic charges of Rs10,000 which was not required, but nobody ever highlighted/questioned. Out NGO challenged this in the High Court. In 2010, I also filed a PIL against Auto finance mafia in High Court, which raised two main points of Permit trading i.e., auto rickshaw black marketing, and true ownership of Autorickshaws i.e. where drivers are driving autos granted on other’s names. The PIL was first dismissed in HC on technical grounds, then moved to Supreme Court which then sent to back to High Court, we are still awaiting a response on this Rakesh Aggarwal, Secretary, Nyaya Bhoomi, a registered NGO working for the welfare of societyIn complaint letters written to the Prime Minister’s and Lieutenant Governor’s office, we highlighted the extra costs that we have to pay for getting an autorickshaw. I requested them to take strong actions against these dealers who are charging optional AMC (auto maintenance charges) to everyone, handling charges etc since GST came. We have also raised a complaint against Rajesh Kumar Meena, MLO, Transport, who had a partnership with these dealers and earned money out of poor drivers’ pockets. I hope this suspension is not just the only step taken against these dealers and their licenses are cancelled tooYashpal Arora, General Secretary, Azad Hind Auto/Taxi Chalak UnionVOICES“I have been driving an autorickshaw since last seven years, I bought this second hand rickshaw for Rs 2 lakhs, whereas a new one should come much lower than this. It was easy then but, now, it has become very difficult to procure a new one”— Vipin Kumar, autorickshaw driver“A new autorickshaw costed me Rs 5 Lakhs, I had to sell my land in the village for this. But now the earning is not much as people generally do not pay by the meter and ask us to reduce the rates.”— Faizan Ahmed, autorickshaw driver“Recently a social worker told me that I can get a new rickshaw for Rs 1,80,000, but I paid three times of this price in August. How could nobody ever knew this? I hope they take away the licenses of the dealers who have been ripping poor drivers.”— Bikram Singh, autorickshaw driver “It was so difficult to get a permit for the autorickshaw and the ‘Letter of Intent’, as the mafia members already take so many permits on different names. The ones who need them the most always have to run around and pay more than needed.”— Sandeep Verma, autorickshaw driver “I had to sell my father’s land in Uttar Pradesh to buy myself an auto. Now they tell me that it was not required after running around for months first to sell the land and then to get the permit. Those people should be punished harsher than just seven days suspension”— Rakesh Kumar, autorickshaw driver

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Speak up Delhi: Autorickshaw finance mafia – a menace staring at govt’s face