TAXI drivers in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor are being forced to pay a monthly fee to thugs if they want to join taxi queues to pick up passengers at shopping malls. Shan, a taxi driver in Puchong, said he was told that he would have to pay RM20 a month to a taxi head at a well-known mall in Puchong if he wanted to pick up passengers from the taxi queue there. He said the mall’s management had nothing to do with it and that it was being forced upon drivers by the local taxi “taiko”. Those who refused to pay would be harassed by the taiko and his friends. “Initially, the driver is given a friendly warning. If he still refuses to pay, then more drastic action is taken against him.” Shan said he and his friends had made complaints to the authorities, but no action had ben taken. He was warned against making any more complaints. Ahmad Shah, who has been driving a taxi for 10 years, said this problem kept cropping up in areas where authorities had failed to enforce the law despite complaints being made. He said he had experienced such a situation in front of Sunway Pyramid, Subang Parade and many other locations away from the city centre. “When I made a complaint to the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD), I got a call a few days later from the ‘taiko’ questioning me why I had made the complaint. Ahmad said the only solution was for him to avoid these places. “Even though this affects my livelihood, I have no choice. I am fed up of being harassed by these people.” Saran, who has been driving a taxi for the last 30 years, said this problem started cropping up as more and more people were given taxi permits. He said some drivers were just lazy and extorting money from other drivers was an easy way for them to earn money. Saran said that at the end of the day, it was the authorities who had to take action. “They should be more pro-active and not just wait for complaints to be made.” He said clamping down on such activities would benefit both taxi drivers and the public who often had to pay high fares.