AAP wants to hike autorickshaw fare, commuters fume

The Aam Aadmi Party wants a hike in fares for autorickshaws in the city and give autoricksaw drivers the right to refuse passengers.  

Commuters in the city, however, think that the party’s advocacy for these demands should not come at the cost of their convenience.

“Today, there is no auto-wallah in the city who is not a party member,” said Sanjay Chawla, an AAP member who represents auto drivers in the city. During the party’s election campaign, many drivers had supported the party by voluntarily displaying AAP’s poster on the back of their autos.

There are 1.5 lakh auto drivers and 85,000 autos in the city, added Chawla.

 “When the auto fare goes up, they are all nice to you, but soon after they start grumbling,” said Supreeth Sudhakaran who commutes to his office in Greater Kailash six days a week, indicating that the hike in rates would be no guarantee to fair play in fares. There is no direct Metro to his office, he added.

Many office goers also complain that auto drivers charge more money during the rush hours. To overcome this problem, the party in its manifesto has proposed waiting charges for auto-ricksaw drivers.

“If we get waiting charges, there would be no need to charge extra on meter?” said Pramod who has been driving auto in the city for the last one and a half years.He is hopeful that when the party comes to power, they will bring in an array of reforms.

Another expectation from AAP and from auto-rickshaw drivers is from the likes of Pooja Bansal, 24, a software professional who works in Noida. She believes that women’s safety is paramount. 

“It has been almost one year since the fatal gang rape with a physiotherapy student, the auto drivers are still aphetic towards women’s safety,” she said and added, “If you have to hire an auto at night, there’s a high possibility that they will refuse to go by meter rates.”

Refusing is a term replete with ambiguity. “When an auto driver is heading home and he meets a passenger who wants to go where his home is, then how could one call it refusing?” said Chawla.

The party’s manifesto also proposes to abolish any punitive action against auto drivers who refuse passengers while going home – including refusal in ‘emergency’ cases.

Chawla thinks that a hike in auto rates is a solution for lowering instances of refusal. He believes that the rise in fares has a multi-pronged affect on auto drivers. 

“The charges for insurance, pollution check and mobil oil has gone up. CNG prices have gone up from Rs 21 to Rs 46,” he said.

The price of fuel is not the only reason for hike in auto fares, Chawla added. Many auto rickshaw drivers also complain about rising inflation of grocery items.

Also, pointing at systemic corruption in city’s transportation department, Chawla said, “None of our works gets done without paying a bribe. One has to pay bribe for getting even a license.” He also points out that their manifesto demands ‘good conduct’ from auto drivers, in return of their promises made by the party.

Reacting to the party’s proposal, a Delhi University student Kumar Ankit, said, “Soon auto will go out of our reach.”

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