An 'auto'matic rise in fares!

Nightmare continues

An 'auto'matic rise in fares!

The Road Transport Authorities has given in to the demands of autorickshaw drivers for a hike in the minimum auto fare from the existing Rs 20 to Rs 25. Despite this, the drivers continue to demand excess fares saying that this hike too, does not help them due to the increasing LPG autogas rates in the market. 

This has forced the regional transport authorities to take additional measures to make sure the tampering of meters is also considerably reduced. Hence, they have begun coordinating with the traffic police to ensure that the autorickshaw drivers, who charge more, are penalised. 

Auto drivers have been demanding the fare hike following an increase in per litre of auto LPG price. The current rate is Rs 66.63 per litre and autorickshaw drivers reason that they demand excess fare because they have to run empty most of the time. Eshwar Gowda, a member of the drivers’ union, shares, “If auto drivers demand more, why can’t the traffic police take stern action? They must cancel our licences. This will change a lot of things. We ask because nobody bothers to check.”

 Even the fares at the pre-fixed auto counters are more. A senior police officer at the pre-fixed counter at City Railway Station, who didn’t want to be named, says, “The pre-fixed rates are always calculated for an extra kilometre because people never get off at the right point. Beyond the stipulated amount, auto drivers have to go by the meter.”
  With the hike, the burden on the passenger is now more as the blatant tampering with the auto meters continue. The official sources in the Legal Metrology Department explain that most of the meters are tampered with to make them tick faster. To avoid tampering, digital fare meters were introduced two years ago but those too are not tamper-proof. Now, the regional transport department is contemplating to connect a Global Position System (GPS) to all autos meters.

“This will avoid tampering of any sort and show the exact distance travelled. The passenger must pay accordingly,” says a senior official at the regional transport department. B Dayananda, additional commissioner of police (traffic), says that in a newly-launched campaign directed at autorickshaws, not less than 500 cases have been booked against them for various offences such as faulty meters, demand of excess fare and the lack of a display board. “Our men in mufti are deputed at railway and bus stations in the mornings and evenings just to check if the auto drivers are demanding more.

If anybody is caught, their licence is seized and we immediately write to the RTO for cancellation of the vehicle’s permit,” reasons Dayananda. While some don’t mind paying extra bucks because their only mode of transport is the auto, others are clearly unhappy with the fare hike because the auto drivers continue to ask for more. Sheeba, an employee with Infosys, says, “The auto drivers demand almost double for short distances. I’ve stopped taking autos and walk it up if the place is closer.” 
Padmashree, a school teacher, doesn’t drive or ride and is forced to depend on the autos. “It’s a hassle to argue with the drivers. They are crude and impolite. They never go by the meter and demand their own fare. Our salaries don’t go up accordingly. How can we pay so much?” she wonders. Sofia Kazia has had some nightmarish experiences with autorickshaw drivers. 

She says these were so bad that she prefers to pay more at pre-fixed counters. “Hiring an auto at night is risky. There is nobody to help when we get into an argument with the auto driver. They quote their own fares despite the hike and if we are in far-off places,  we are forced to give in to their demands,” she reasons. It is unfortunate that the ordinary man continues to be caught in the row between the law enforcing authority and the auto drivers. 

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