Experience this new-age 'customer service'

The pleasant weather and cosmopolitan culture of Bangalore may appear deceptive after your first brush with the auto drivers as soon as you arrive in the City.

The experience could even leave an indelible impression if you happen to arrive by train. A reality check at Banaswadi Bangalore East and Cantonment railway stations threw light on the ‘harassment’ that the travelling public are subjected to by the autorickshaw fraternity.

Some passengers claimed that drivers now wait for their customers on the platforms at the Banaswadi railway station and virtually drag them to their vehicles.

The passengers who arrive by Kochuveli-Yeshwantpur Express and Howrah Express, which reaches the City around 8 am, are more prone to this kind of ‘customer service.’ The passengers have to confront an unorganised autorickshaw system at the railway station.

Raghuram Varma, a senior citizen who lives close to the station, said: “I have been here for the past 35 years. I have seen how these autorickshaw drivers have graduated from small-time ruffians to gangsters. I am so used to the din and commotion they create in the morning hours.”

Pre-paid auto counters at other railway stations aren’t any good. Complaints have been mounting against the police-manned counter in Cantonment station.

“They give you a slip showing the distance and fare. But for some reason, it works like the BMTC bus service which loots people with its stage-wise ticket fares. Autos cannot work like that. Why should I pay for additional distance which I never travelled,” asks Pranav Bharadwaj, student of Jain University. 

Incidentally, a majority of the passengers who get down from trains try to catch autos plying on the roads and do not approach the prepaid counters.

For Nithin Venugopal, an IT employee, catching a bus at the Majestic bus station is a better option.
“I choose to get down at Bangalore City Station since the BMTC bus station is nearby. Prepaid autos charge at least 20 per cent more than the regular meter fare.”  

M A Saleem took over as Additional Commissioner of Police (Traffic) early September 2011. The change of guard also led to conversion of prepaid auto stands into prefixed auto stands. While the Traffic Police displayed great enthusiasm in launching the new concept across the City, the incident at the Mantri Square auto stand on January 8 where a handful of citizens shut down the booth raised a lot of questions on the rationale of the new system.

“On paper and by law, these auto stands are not our responsibility. We are deploying traffic personnel despite having no resources. We cannot help it if auto drivers misuse the absence of traffic police at the counters,” Saleem said.

Fleecing passengers

Overcharging passengers is the common complaint against auto drivers. Rowena, a student of New Horizon College, said drivers round up figures as if it were their birth right.

“The minimum fare of Rs 17 is a farce as I have never paid that sum. It is always rounded off to Rs 20 by the driver. They simply drive away without returning the change,” she said.

Autorickshaw drivers say they have their own problems. Ravi Gowda at the MG Road auto stand says that while prefixed stands are surely helpful to passengers, they are a drain on their daily income. Ravi, who waited at the stand from 11 am to 4 pm got only three rides, each of Rs 20.

“After the launch of Metro service, commuters getting out of the train prefer prefixed auto service to the nearest destination. The maximum we get is Rs 30 per trip. Sustaining my family of three may become difficult if I don’t earn at least Rs 200 a day,” he said.

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