Shillong city. File photo Credit: EastMojo image

Shillong: If you are a native of Shillong, you would know the importance of local shared taxis to commute from one point to another within the urban limits of Meghalaya’s capital.

Convenient and cheap, these iconic black-and-yellow cabs have remained a lifeline of the locals, especially office-goers, for decades.

However, with time, taxi drivers have learnt a way to make quick and easy money. Most of the time, they are found refusing to ply on a sharing basis, forcing passengers to pay a premium. “I have to wait for 10-20 minutes every day to get a taxi from Police Bazar to Jhalupara. The actual cost of the ride is Rs 10, but taxi drivers sometimes charge us Rs 20 or more,” said Rishika Paul, a student.

At other times, they are seen picking up more passengers than are allowed, causing great discomfort to commuters. As per the norms, these black-yellow taxis, which are normally Maruti 800 cars, are allowed to carry four passengers – three in the rear seat and one in the front.

However, the passengers complain that taxi drivers never run according to the norms. They would normally carry four passengers in the rear seat and two in front.

A taxi driver told EastMojo that they are forced to do this due to the traffic situation in Shillong. “Most of the times, when we run on sharing basis, we don’t even get time to take lunch breaks because we are always stuck in traffic jams,” said a taxi driver.

What’s more disappointing is that these taxis are not resorting to the unfair tactics discreetly; in fact, they are doing all these right under the policemen’s nose.

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To get more clarity on the matter, EastMojo spoke to Shillong SP (traffic) Bikram D Marak. “We have been receiving several complaints verbally but not in a written manner. If these written complaints are submitted, we will definitely take stringent action against taxi drivers. As for verbal complaints, we do take action on humanitarian grounds but it would be more effective if we have them in written,” said Marak.

According to the the SP, over 5,400 taxis are plying in East Khasi Hills district. No new data has been released till date.

The SP, however, blames not only the drivers but says passengers are equally responsible for drivers violating the norms. “The major problem is that even passengers don’t cooperate. They insist that the driver carries more people than is allowed. Passengers should not board the taxi if they see that the cab already has five passengers — three in the rear seat and two in the front, including the driver,” said Marak.

While passengers struggle with their daily rides, they are blaming the state government for not taking any concrete action. For now, public transport in Shillong remains a bane for daily commuters.

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