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“Capacity 5 in all”

Editor,

 “Capacity 5 in all” is a phrase we often come across while boarding cabs/taxis. Sadly most of us do not understand the simple meaning of the phrase—not the passengers, let alone the drivers of the very vehicles. The cabs plying in the region have a limited carrying capacity of maximum three good-sized passengers in the back seat and one in the front. Unfortunately, this is not the case in our city and the adjacent areas. Even autos have raised their own ‘standard’ capacity. The plight here is such that cabs will not run unless the back seats are filled with four passengers behind and two in front irrespective of one’s size or health condition, no matter how much time the wait may last.

Let me narrate an incident that happened to me a few months back. One late evening, I boarded a cab from the Police Point at Bara Bazaar to Laitumkhrah, in which there were two middle-aged lady passengers already seated in the back seat and one man seated beside the driver. The driver then informed that he would take another passenger in the front seat and started complaining how the size of the two ladies hindered him from taking in another passenger. He then asked the two ladies to compensate for the loss and pay an extra fare of Rs.10 to which the ladies refused and said they were willing to adjust if he wants to take in another person. On the contrary the driver asked them to disembark from the cab! I was the third passenger in the back witnessing the injustice that was happening. I could no longer hold back my silence at the misdemeanour of the driver in asking the ladies to vacate the cab only because they refused to pay the extra amount which was neither his right nor their duty to pay. I finally spoke up for them and questioned the driver if it was necessary to make them leave on the basis of their body size and if there is a need to check our sizes from now on before boarding a cab. I further added that there is no such rule for filling the seats with four passengers behind and two in front. Rather, it is clearly written that the capacity is “5 in all” and instead we should be complaining against the driver if he insists on his selfish point.

The driver was annoyed and demanded that I should also leave the cab adding that I could go complain as well. Without a second thought, I walked away in resentment but realizing that somebody has to stand up to this menace, I turned back, noted the vehicle number and headed to complain the matter to the Traffic Police on duty. The Policeman was kind enough to listen to the narration of the incident after which he asked the cab driver to pull over and chided him, after which the driver apologized to both the Policeman and me.

The whole point behind this write-up is not to seek an apology from the driver but to also highlight the mindset of the drivers and the passengers alike. The need is to not compromise on safety and to send a message to everyone that we have a right and duty to stand against this self-made rule and to give respect to our fellow beings irrespective of their size, gender, age, colour or community they may belong to.

In another similar incident, this issue was raised by an elderly man to which one lady-passenger instead of agreeing that this has become a deeply rooted problem said that if anybody has a problem adjusting then one should pay extra instead of complaining. After all it is only Rs.10! This is the attitude of some of our educated and civilized people. I am not talking about situations where four people can actually fit in comfortably or willingly agree to make adjustments. But where have the taxi drivers earned the right to allot the new seating capacity from? Surprisingly, most people do not seem to have a problem with this arrangement where they are being sandwiched between passengers. Often, one is barely even sitting on the seats; just hanging with legs crammed up. Tourists from all over are forced to adjust with the ‘warm-hearted and welcoming’ people of Shillong. Even expecting mothers, at times with toddlers on their laps, are no exceptions.

It is noteworthy to mention that just as the new rule on fastening of seat-belts has been implemented successfully through the cooperation of the law-makers and implementers along with the general public at large, so also this menace can be tackled. In the long run, it is us, the passengers, who are the real sufferers. Our Constitution has provided for the right to livelihood but not at the cost of causing inconvenience or injustice to any human being no matter how trivial the matter may be. It is a sad truth that we show we can become civilized ‘only’ when we are forced by law rather than choosing to be law abiding citizens spontaneously. We must be the change, if we want to see one!

Yours etc.,

Dahunmon M Hadem,

Shillong-3 

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