Many in Coimbatore were worried that the 'Makkal Auto' service was too good to be true and it would meet with a sorry end.
If you look stranded, in a hurry or unwell, you are easy game. That is the opinion of a cross section of people who use autorickshaws in this city. And if you are elderly or look like an outsider, then it gets worse. T. Selvaraj wanted to do something for his city and he thought a friendly, reasonable and efficient auto service was a good idea. When he launched the service, that he called Makkal Auto, he was flooded with grateful calls. People who used the Makkal Auto couldn’t believe how reasonable it was. They paid a fraction of what they normally paid before. Of course many of them were worried that this was too good to be true and it would meet with a sorry end. Their fears were well founded as within a couple of days of their launch, angry auto unions reacted explosively and beat up Makkal Auto personnel and damaged their brand new vehicles. When MetroPlus called T. Selvaraj, he was taking two of his employees who had been roughed up to the Government Hospital. He said, “The matter is serious and our drivers have been attacked and our vehicles broken up. But we will continue our service to the people of Coimbatore.”
Dr. V. Jayanthi
Taking an auto from the railway station to Kalapatti Road is a nightmare. Many times, I have paid less for the train fare than for the auto. These drivers charge at least Rs. 50 more than the regular fare. Senior citizens bear the brunt of their rudeness. If they want extra fare as night charges, we do not mind. We prefer a taxi as we can pre-book, and there is some responsibility and accountability. For shorter distance, I prefer to take a bus. A pre-paid system, polite behaviour, reasonable rates, service mentality and ensuring safety are the only way to draw more people to use autos.
Ankita. S, DJ Academy of Design
It was my first year in college. I, along with my friends, took an auto rickshaw from the Railway Station to my college in Othakalmandapam. The auto driver stopped when we reached a point called Mill Gate.
He demanded an extra fifty rupees to just to go to the college that was just a two-minute walk from there. We refused to pay and the man raised his hand to hit us. Luckily, the locals intervened and sorted out the situation.
I am from Erode and I am now in Coimbatore. I travel to Bangalore and Kerala for job interviews. In both places, the autos charge by the kilometre.
Here my experience with autos has been bad, every time. They overcharge and are rude. One driver demanded Rs. 350 from Ukkadam to Ondipudur. And this was in daytime. When I argued he said no auto driver would come for anything less. I took a bus instead and reached home in less than Rs.7. Even a cab costs me Rs.200.
Maaike Baker, American exchange student
They wanted Rs. 300 from Race Course to go to a restaurant in Bharathi Park Road. My friends and I first thought of dropping our programme, but then decided to take a cab. I am not made of money. I am a student.
Vasantha Janakiraman, Domestic help
Last week, my daughter went into labour and we struggled to get her to the local health centre. The driver wanted Rs. 70 for a distance of 2 km. I had to beg before he relented to come for Rs. 50.
The doctors asked us to return the following day. I bargained again and paid another Rs. 50 to reach home. I spent a day’s salary on an auto ride of four km. Another time, despite my daughter being so unwell, I had to make her walk to the health centre. I could not afford an auto.
N.V. Vaidyanathan, Retired executive
My wife and I depend on auto-rickshaws to commute. After trial and error, I’ve zeroed in on a few drivers from my locality in Edayarpalayam who are quite reasonable. I pay them by the hour. So, if I have about an hour’s work in R.S. Puram, I pay him Rs. 250 for a round trip. I feel safer travelling with a known autodriver. If I get an auto from the stand, I am charged Rs. 200 from Gandhipuram to my house, a distance of 8 km. It is terribly expensive.
Sarah Groves, American exchange student
When we walk out of our apartment complex in Race Course, they automatically charge us more. One driver said that as we lived on Race Course, we can afford the fare. One driver took us to Town Hall instead of a church on Trichy Road. When we demanded he take us to the right place, he charged us more.
Sri Vishnu, Student, PSG CAS
I am frustrated by the arbitrary way in which the auto drivers charge the public. I have heard how they charge women more as they feel they will hesitate to argue or bargain. We took two autos from college to R.S. Puram. The one with the guys paid Rs. 150, while the girls in the other auto had to shell out Rs. 200 for the same distance.
Cynthia Vijay, Homemaker
I often travel with my nine-year-old daughter from Saibaba Colony to Thudiyalur. One driver agreed to come for Rs. 100, but when I asked him to drop us near our apartment, just a little way inside, he demanded Rs. 50 more. On another occasion, I requested a driver to stop for a second so that I could buy some keerai. He turned around and insolently asked: “Do you think this is your veetu vandi?”
N. Waseem Ahmed, Businessman
I tried sending my daughter to school by auto. But, it was very expensive. They wanted Rs. 1,500 per child a month for a distance of 8 km. For one-way, they charged Rs. 1,000. I switched her to a cab; it was less expensive and safer.
R. Mala, Homemaker
Most auto drivers don’t know how to talk to customers. I invariably get down irritated. Why can’t they be user-friendly?
That’s why I prefer to call a taxi. It’s less of a headache. We would welcome a change in the current system.