Local residents forced autorickshaws off Metiabruz on Tuesday, the day after a speeding three-wheeler knocked down six-year-old Meja Lashkar and overturned on her, crushing her to death at Khanpara, on AK Deb Road.
The angry residents said police have failed miserably in reining in autorickshaws. “Autos will not ply on this route unless the police sit down with us for a meeting and assure us that they will find out a way to keep the three-wheelers in check,” said Younas Molla, a resident of the area.
The number of autos that ply in Metiabruz has multiplied in the past few years, said residents and shopkeepers. And most of the autos do not have valid papers. Many drivers are under-age.
“There is union raj here. The autos race with each other, play music loudly and pick up more people than they are allowed to. If we complain, we are asked to shut up,” said Fatima Bibi, another resident of the area.
On Monday afternoon, one such autorickshaw lost control while overtaking another from the left, knocked down Meja and toppled on her. A mob smashed the killer vehicle and set ablaze another and two shops.
Metiabruz is just one of the many areas in the city where illegal autorickshaws ply. Numerous unregistered autos continue to ply in Tollygunge.
The regional transport officers know about the problem but say they are helpless.
“We conduct raids against illegal autos from time to time. If we haul up the three-wheelers, the unions create a ruckus. They use political pressure and we have to let go of them,” said Ashok Kumar Roy, the assistant regional transport officer of South 24-Parganas.
Many commuters are unaware of the dangers of travelling in an autorickshaw that actually does not exist in the records of the transport department.
“It is such a struggle to get a few inches of space in an auto during rush hour, so nobody bothers to check if the vehicle has a number plate or not,” said Sonali Basu, a regular commuter on the Tollygunge-Garia route.