Auto-rickshaws with GPS, panic buttons no safer than others

New Delhi, Jan. 18 -- If you thought travelling in an auto-rickshaw fitted with global positioning system (GPS) device and panic button would ensure a safe journey, you have a reason to be extra cautious. While the transport department may take credit that it has rolled out almost 15,000 new auto-rickshaws fitted with GPS device and panic button, thus making it safer for commuters, especially women travelling at late hours, the transport department does not monitor the movement of vehicles through GPS. The panic button does not work either.

Though there has been a lot of hue and cry related to women safety in public transport system especially after the brutal gang rape of 23-year old paramedic in a moving bus on December 16 last, the transport department has yet to learn its lessons. The lakhs of rupees so far spent on installation of GPS devices (R17,500 per auto-rickshaw in 15,000 vehicles) has just gone down the drain.

"Installation of GPS device is a big scam. The transport department is trying to make one private company benefit from the entire exercise. The government has yet to set up its control room to monitor the movement of auto-rickshaws, react in case a passenger presses panic button or take action in case of a complaint," said Rajendra Soni, president of one of the largest auto-rickshaw unions in the Capital.

"How can the government play with safety of people especially women? I try and take one of those new auto-rickshaws, which has GPS and panic button fitted thinking these vehicles are safer, on my way to office and back every day. What if I am in dire need of help and these gadgets do not work," said Mitali Mukherjee, a bank executive.

The transport department had made it mandatory for auto-rickshaws to install GPS device, printer with fare meter and panic button in each vehicle when it revised the auto and taxi fare in June 2009.

The government had also promised to set up a call centre to start "auto-on-call service"' on the lines of radio taxis.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.


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