Dropped off at the hotel by the client, Venky was delighted when he realised that he had the afternoon off to explore the ‘charming’ city of Vizag. Armed with tips and advice from his friends back in the US, he set out. Approaching the auto stand conveniently located just outside the gates of Novotel, Varun Beach, he asked for the fare to Siripuram in his anglicised Telugu. Rupees two hundred he was told. Remembering to always bargain with every auto driver, Venky was ecstatic when the driver agreed for one hundred. But when just a few minutes later, he was told that they reached their destination, Venky was flummoxed at being looted! A barrage of feelings accosted him ranging from anger at the driver to amusement at his own naivety. Finally hilarity at the whole scenario saved the day. Realising the futility of arguing with the auto guy, Venky chucked a hundred at him and got out vowing never venture into an auto again without verifying the rates at the hotel reception. After a cup of coffee, he prudently walked back to the hotel.
While the incident became a source of merriment amongst Venky’s friends, the clients, the hotel staff and his family, it raises a lot of questions. Thankfully, Venky took it in a light-hearted spirit, but how about others. This blatant fleecing from innocent customers leaves a bad taste. Newcomers would unhesitatingly brand all auto drivers as cheaters, and mistrust even genuine honest drivers. The root cause of the problem is the lack of meters in autos. The once mandatory auto-fare-meters are now a rare sight. Most of the autos do not carry one, and if they do, the standard reply is that it is not functioning. Today in Vizag, finding an auto driver who will actually ply by his meter without extracting an extra sum to offset the fuel hike is rare, in fact almost impossible!!
In Mumbai, strict fines for lack/tampering of meters and a drive by the RTO has ensured that many auto rickshaws actually sport electronic meters (e-meters). E-meters are preferred over the older mechanical ones due to their better accuracy and lesser chances of being tampered with. Obviously a proper metering system in autos would ensure transparency and instil better confidence amongst customers.
Yo! Vizag asks… what do the auto drivers have to say in their defence? And how about the authorities, what is their stance on this issue? Featuring the views and arguments of Vizagites…
Auto-rickshaws have been well known as the common man’s transport since years. But this fact seems quiet ironic these days because of the open-looting system adopted by the rickshaw walas. Being an under-graduate at a local college, commuting via auto rickshaws is inevitable for me. But the soaring fares and inexplicable lack of electric meter system is disheartening. I really have no choice other than handing the driver whatever bulk sum he demands. I undoubtedly stand by the view of setting up of electric meters to retaliate any of these extreme outcomes. Perhaps the installation of meters and thereby controlling the fares would put a check on the tyranny of the auto-walas and make travelling by autos a congenial convenience rather than an agonising expense!
Roopa Lahari, Student
There have been issues about the meter systems in autos. As an auto driver, personally I am for the electronic meters in auto rickshaws. With the constant rise in prices of petrol and diesel, we face a lot of problems from the customers. They expect us to take them to their destinations at the rates which were prevalent before the rise in prices of petroleum products. When we quote a higher price, they start to quarrel. If there was a meter system in place everything would go smooth. In Vizag, most customers travel by sharing an auto. At the airport and the railway station, there are prepaid autos where the prices are fixed by the traffic police. Taking this into consideration, if we install meters in autos and still cater to sharing or pre-paid services, we would go into losses as the meters itself cost us around Rs. 4000. If the traffic police enforce the installation of meters, we as auto drivers would be happy to comply.
Kanaka Rao, Auto Driver