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Recently, we saw a new system being introduced at the institute gates that enforces autos to leave the institute within 30 minutes. With the ever-present complaint of autos not going outside the institute, the Hostel Affairs Council felt that this will help in mitigating the problem; and the results are already palpable. However, many people have observed that while it does solve the problem of the autos not going outside, it creates a new one of them refusing to take rides inside the campus. In this article, we elucidate the exact basis for introducing this system, and critically evaluate its effectiveness.
Do we need regulation of autorickshaws within the Institute?
As a resident of the sprawling IITB campus, autos become very important in day-to-day life. With the institute disallowing the possession of private vehicles by students, autos and taxis have become the primary mode of transportation. Whether you want to go to the Galleria market in Hiranandani, catch a local from Kanjurmarg or simply reach your next class on time, the autorickshaws always come to the rescue. But, do they really? Catching an auto to travel within the campus has never been a problem; however, if you are unfortunate enough to make a sudden trip to Kanjurmarg or Hiranandani, you have to manoeuvre your way through a number of rejections until you find an auto. The autos coming inside the campus would roam around for hours, ferrying students within the campus and refusing to move out until business was lull.[pullquote]The autos coming inside the campus would roam around for hours, ferrying students within the campus and refusing to move out until business was lull.[/pullquote] Compelled with the pressing need to have a framework to cater to these problems, a ticketing system was introduced at the Main Gate about two months ago.
The institute already regulates the entry of private vehicles in the campus at the main-gate. The need to expand the purview of the regulation to autorickshaws arose from the persistent student complaints of autos simply refusing to make a trip to places outside the institute. The solution to this problem was discussed in the Hostel Affairs Council meets last semester, but the matter was not taken up to the authorities for approval. This semester, however, the previous and the incumbent GSHA discussed the idea of having a ticketing system for autos with the Chief Security Officer (CSO), S.S. Jha. Initially reluctant, the CSO felt that the autos were already regulated, albeit informally; and doubted whether the system of regulation will work given the heavy influx of autos, especially during peak hours. However, after the persistent efforts of the Council, the CSO and the Security Chairperson agreed to run this as a pilot project.
The Current System
The previous practice was to note down the registration numbers of non-IIT vehicles when they entered the campus. However, it was devoid of any concrete formality that enforced autos and taxis to go outside the campus. One way for campus residents was to call up the security office and register a complaint, but hardly anyone did that in practice. On seeking precedents, it was found that many government institutes such as Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) already had a similar ticketing-system in place. This seemed like a very viable option, and was introduced as a pilot project by the Security Office. On speaking with the CSO, he agreed that the pilot was very successful, and all previous complaints were more or less taken care of.[pullquote]The ticketing system was introduced as a pilot project by the Security Office. On speaking with the CSO, he agreed that the pilot was very successful, and all previous complaints were more or less taken care of.[/pullquote] The gates are presently issuing almost 1000-1500 coupons everyday, and almost all of them are returned. Overleaf, these coupons carry instructions, such as the time duration and the pertinent fines if any rule is violated. It is here that we note certain problems.
The current system has been implemented with two broad intentions – one, to keep the frequent influx of autos in the institute regulated and two, ensure that autos regularly move out of the institute. However, there are concerns whether such a regulation would discourage autos to come inside the campus from nearby areas, reducing the number of available autos within the campus and thereby defeating the purpose in principle. Sarthak Agrawal, the current GSHA, claims to have spoken to a number of auto-drivers from Hiranandani and Kanjurmarg over a span of two months. He argues that the problem of not getting autos for IITB from such places is because the auto-drivers seek long distance fares. “Any measure that we take for a regulation of autos inside the campus will have little to almost no effect on the choices of autorickshaw drivers on whether they want to come inside”, he says.[pullquote]“Any measure that we take for a regulation of autos inside the campus will have little to almost no effect on the choices of autorickshaw drivers on whether they want to come inside”, says Sarthak Agrawal, the current GSHA.[/pullquote] There also remains a doubt over the efficiency of the system, since the auto-drivers simply hand out the slip while passing through the exit. However, this problem would be taken care of by the automated system that has been planned for the near future. The planned automated system also caters to the problem of the clogging of autos at the main gate, especially during peak hours, and would also help in improving the efficiency of the regulation over entry of vehicles in the institute.
Another concern is the reduced availability of autos running inside the campus. This problem can be taken care of if we have a bifurcated ticketing system in place. One type of ticket could have the mandatory 45-minute exit while the other type could be handed out on a daily basis to a few selected autos which would be allowed to stay on the campus for a day. There has also been due deliberation on considering tagging the permitted autos with the IITB logo. However, this could lead to the auto drivers demanding permanent employment which could potentially lead to chaos, akin to what happened with the tumtum drivers recently. The student body and the authorities have a general consensus that it would be in the best interests of the institute if such a system could be applied informally. A plan to allow a few selected auto drivers, who could be friends and relatives of the staff members, to drive within the campus is in the pipeline. It has also been reported that tumtum drivers within the institute drive autos after their shifts. These autos stay within the campus, violating the principle behind having such a system and they should ideally be stopped. However, this also helps in keeping the autos available within the institute and such a practice could be incorporated within the planned permit.
The legal basis for collecting the fines too remains suspect. On speaking to the CSO, it was found that since IITB is a restricted area, having such a fine in place after approval from institute authorities is correct in principle. Ideally, for all traffic and road violations, the Traffic Police/RTO are legal authorities for collecting the fines, but they leave the institute security to handle all matters inside the campus, and intervene only when specifically requested.
What’s in store?
The system has so far received mixed reviews. There has been a tangible change in the availability of autos for going outside the campus, but also a noticeable change in terms of their non-availability for in-campus rides.[pullquote]The system has so far received mixed reviews. There has been a tangible change in the availability of autos for going outside the campus, but also a noticeable change in terms of their non-availability for in-campus rides.[/pullquote] The security office has been consistent in issuing and collecting tickets, and seems receptive to student’s perspective and suggestions on the whole matter. Tentatively, this system would be generalised to all non-IIT vehicles, and things would be automated (something along the lines of ticketing at metros) – reducing the load on security personnel and preventing clogging at the gates. The time window was initially of 45 minutes, decided on a rough scheme of 30 minutes waiting and 15 minutes travel for a 7-8 km distance. Now it has been reduced to 30 minutes but tweaking it would perhaps improve the system for the better. The reduction of time to was decided on the basis of a rough estimation of the time it takes for an auto to enter the institute, make a couple of trips inside the campus and then exit, all within an estimated 30 minutes. However, after due consideration by the authorities, it has been suggested that the time window be reverted to 45 minutes. It’s best that this aspect be crowdsourced, and hence there are a couple of questions at the end of this article regarding the whole issue. Do answer them.