Six years after the previous revision of auto rickshaw fare and umpteen increases in fuel prices, the State Government unveiled a new tariff structure on Sunday that translated around 75 percent hike in the minimum fare and the waiting charges hereafter to be Rs. 3.50 for every five minutes and Rs. 42 for an hour. The previous rate was Rs. 10 for ten minutes.
Chief Minister Ms. Jayalalithaa also announced that the State Government would funds received from taxpayers up to Rs. 80 crores to install meters fitted with GPS facility and electronic digital printers. The meters would also have a provision for panic button, which the passengers could press in case of an emergency and the police will come immediately to the rescue of the commuter. “The authorities would set up a helpline number to handle complaints related to the auto rickshaws. The number will be pasted on vehicles prominently”, said the official.
The good thing about this tariff revision is that it’s applicable to all over Tamil Nadu. Being a frequent traveler across the states, I find it quite comfortable while in the neighboring states like Karnataka and Kerala; auto drivers in Kerala return even the small change like one re. and fifty paisa. Likewise, I feel quite annoyed when I am forced to pay Rs. 40 - 50 for a distance less than one kilometer in Chennai. Coimbatore is the worst in this case, where the call taxis are much cheaper than the autos.
First of all, I don't expect the new Chennai auto metering fares to work. Anarchy was allowed to prevail for too long. As a result, everyone is used to the current situation, where the auto drivers or the passengers. The revised fare is only half of what the auto drivers charge in a lump sum manner. (The minimum fare is now Rs. 25 for the first 1.8 kilometers, whereas the minimum I have paid on any auto trip is Rs. 50 for a distance less than two kilometers.) I am sure that the entrenched auto folks will refuse to agree to this.
In another case, for a distance of ten kilometers, I will end up paying just Rs. 120, much of which will be spent on fuel. If the auto does not get a return trip, there will be hardly anything left for him to take home. This is insufficient considering the cost of petrol and the wastage of fuel while waiting in traffic.
How safe and comfortable is a commuter is apart from these tariff issues?
According to the statistical report given by the Tamil Nadu Transport Department, there are 2.14 lakh autos plying across the state out of which 71,470 are in Chennai. This count is purely based on the autos that have obtained permit from the transport department. But the unfortunate truth is that there are countless autos that ply without any documents along with the knowledge of Police and the Road Transport Authorities which is because most of those auto owners are either related to police - RTO or politicians - gundas. Though the Chief Minister has made it clear that permits of auto rickshaw drivers would be cancelled if they charge more than the revised fares and their vehicles would also be seized, the biggest question that arises now: Will the Chennai autos rickshaw-wallahs follow the government’s guidelines?
Autos/ taxis in Bangalore or Mumbai are better behaved because laws were implemented properly and violations were dealt with regularly. Price revision was also regular. I am suggesting that Chennai be given a higher rate and brought under compliance first. Once this compliance is achieved, things can be regulated better subsequently.
One can also find an auto stand across each and every street corner along with an name board that's associated with some political party in Tamil Nadu.
The height of irritation is that you will dress neatly for a business meet or an interview and would want to reach the venue faster. After reaching the auto stand, one can find a few autos parked and all the auto drivers are seen sitting and chitchatting without responding to the customer. Suddenly, you see a man (the so called timekeeper of the stand) coming and asking as to where you want to go and after negotiating the cost, he will show his hand towards some auto, where you can test your luck, depending you will get a new auto or a scrap with rusted bars and sponge less seats (quite doubtful whether it has a shock absorber). The auto driver might also turn out to be a drunkard or a chain smoker. And you lose the freedom even to choose an auto by which you have to travel. If a lone girl comes along and hires an auto, the auto driver will immediately call another guy and they both will share the driving seat and discuss unwanted issues or even vulnerable comments about the passenger creating unnecessary nuisance.
It’s good to know that the government is providing GPS enabled meters. But there is no clue about how the GPS will be tracked. As a frequent traveler by autos, I am eagerly awaiting the implementation of the aforementioned changes and hope that the tag of worst auto rickshaws will be erased from Chennai’s vocabulary. Fingers crossed.
Source: The hindu