Stranded in the darkness

Stranded in the darkness

If you thought that pre-fixed auto counters came as a blessing to ensure one a smooth ride, think again. Though the concept was launched to encourage people to travel by public transport, the reality is starkly different.

The pre-fixed auto counters, especially the one on MG Road, are non-functional after 6 pm and once it starts raining autos just seem to disappear. Moreover, if you are lucky to spot one, the driver most of the time refuses to ply.

In the end, commuters desperately end up searching for an auto on their own. During heavy rains and peak hours, the situation becomes worse and it gets hard especially
for women. A lot of times, the staff at the counter express their helplessness by saying that no autos come that side.

Last week, Sumati, a professional, had to wait for more than one and a half hours at the auto stand waiting for an auto. “It was dark and  raining heavily, and there were around 20 people waiting with me. Although there were autos on the road, none of them were coming to the prefixed auto counter. When we asked one of the staff about it, he bluntly said that there have been no autos available since 5.30 pm. Isn’t it important for them to ensure that autos are available when people come to the auto stand?” she asks.

Anjali M, who has been working on MG Road for the past eight years, finds it inconvenient to take an auto from the pre-fixed counter.

“It was helpful when the traffic police was manning these counters. The drivers would never dare refuse a customer nor did they demand extra money. At least, out of fear, they would function. But now, a private organisation has taken over and it has become a messy affair. The drivers just refuse to ply and the organisation has no control over it,” she laments.

“The main idea of taking an auto from the prefixed counter is to avoid getting into an argument with the auto drivers. But what’s the point if the autos at the counters themselves do not operate properly?”

Meena, who also works on MG Road, says that there is no end to the harassment. “If it is raining, the auto drivers demand extra money. They stop wherever they feel like. This has become a daily affair and unless there is a change in the attitude of the drivers, the commuters have no choice but to deal with this problem,” she says.

Many even say that the prefixed autos work out more expensive. Dinesh, who lives in Malleswaram, pays Rs 78 whenever he takes an auto from the pre-fixed counter on MG Road. But if he takes an auto otherwise, he pays only Rs 60.

“I don’t know whether the money goes to the driver or the organisation. In spite of this, the drivers still demand Rs 10 extra during the rains and peak hours. The idea of pre-fixed auto counters was to make the public transport more open to the citizens. But if the situation is like that, the commuters will be forced to rely on private vehicles,” he says.

And the problems do not end here. The staff at the centres require more than 15 minutes to book an auto. They first note down the commuter’s number and destination. They then go online to check on the fare after which, an SMS is sent. But many a time, the commuters don’t receive the SMS and if the server is down, the staff fixes the fare provided by the traffic police without any valid evaluation. And by the time the queue just gets longer.

“Once, I took an auto from the pre-fixed counter MG Road to HSR Layout. The staff took down my details and told me that my ride would cost Rs 150 and that an SMS notification would be sent. However, neither did I receive an SMS nor did I understand how the calculation was done. There is no systematic evaluation of the fares, which are prefixed and the inefficiency of the staff adds to the problem,” says Vinay, a professional. 

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