Grandma's Tales

October 6, 2006

Auto! Auto! 1

Filed under: Auto — Geeta Padmanabhan @ 10:12 pm

Chennai auto-rickshaws are again in the news. They are always in the news but from time to time they get a prime time slot on TV news channels. And why not? the 35 to 50 thousand automen in Chennai are a colourful lot. You cannot talk about them in two-minute clips. They deserve a full-length movie.

A majority of them indulge in every malpractice you can think of. And some that you cannot even imagine. Those at the auto-stand charge more than those that are running. [Guessed reason: they can fleece one customer in a hurry, and spend the rest of the day idling under a tree.]

The charges generally are three times the official one. [Stated reason: They were revised in 1994. After that fuel prices have gone up many times.]

They take in 6 to 7 passengers on a trip.The rugular ones, not the share autos. [Stated reason: “The passengers prefer this, since what they pay me is still less than hiring two autos.”]

They expect exact directions. GPS-like, you should tell them the spot marked X on which you will get off. As you do with the waiter taking your order, you should get them to repeat it. If you don’t, be prepared for a verbal onslaught (VO).

VO #1 “You said area A and this is area B! This is cheating! You have to pay me another 50 bucks! Do you know the cost of petrol?” He says a lot more in Tamil which I’d rather not translate.

VO#2 This starts at about three-fourths of the distance. “If I had known it was this area I would never have agreed to this “savaari”. (Not everyone can live in the Raj Bhavan area, man!) Now I have to go all the way back without a passenger. You didn’t give me proper instructions. Now give me return fare!” Again a torrent of unprintable abuse.

VO #3 “Look at the roads! Are these roads? They are just potholes! My vehicle is going to be damaged! The owner will not pay for the repairs. It is all your fault, better pay for the repairs! (But, dear automan, I didn’t make the potholes!)

Mr. Lakshmi Narain, President, Auto Passengers’ Association has been waging a lone battle against these auto-cratic guys. He agrees the fares have to be raised to match petrol/diesel prices. But after that he wants autos to be fitted with tamper-proof meters. None of the autos in the city has a meter. The last time meters were fitted, they quickly went “out of order” and couldn’t be repaired.

Once the meters are fitted, Mr. Lakshmi Narain wants the cops to check them periodically and if found faulty or dead, cancel the driver’s license. He also wants the owners to forfeit their trade permit if their vehicles run with tampered meters. No properly working meter, no license. Should work.

The government has promised to look into the matter of increasing fares after the local body elections. Applying brakes to their arbitrary ways would have been an easier task 12 years ago. Today automen have formed themselves into unions. Their numbers are large and they have strong bargaining powers. I hear they want a minimum fare of Rs. 15 and god knows how much for each km after that. If this is allowed, will they give us a guarantee that they will charge according to the meter and give the passengers an abuse-free ride?

Make a guess.


1 Comment »

  1. like they do in bangalore?

    Comment by Varun Chablani — October 9, 2006 @ 11:40 pm | Reply

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