There is no viable proposal so far, either from the Government departments concerned or from the autorickshaw unions, for meter fare in autorickshaws, according to president of the Federation of Autorickshaw Unions of Coimbatore District P.K. Sukumaran.

In the wake of recent efforts by the city police to explore the possibility of meter fare, the unions stuck to their demand for Rs. 30 as the minimum fare, as against Rs. 14 fixed by the Government more than three years ago.

On the views that the autorickshaws may prove to be the only visitor-unfriendly factor during the World Classical Tamil Conference in the city from June 23 to 27, Mr. Sukumaran says: “We are willing to use the meters, but the fare cannot be Rs. 14. It is too low to fetch a reasonably good income for the drivers. The fare has to be realistic, with the cost of living, fuel and maintenance of the vehicles as the basis,” he says.

The unions are aware of the apprehensions that the present fares may tarnish the image of the city among visitors to the conference.

There is a lot of talk on this, agrees Mr. Sukumaran. But, the present meter fare is unacceptable. On whether the unions were considering the operation of some of the autorickshaws (out of the nearly 8,000 in the district) on fixed fares from the conference venue to various places in the city, Mr. Sukumaran says there is no such proposal yet. And, there is no sign of the demand for a higher meter fare being considered.

Member of citizens' group, Kural, T. Sampath Kumar contests the claims the unions make in support of their demand for Rs. 30 as minimum fare.

Welcoming City Police Commissioner C. Sylendra Babu's efforts to re-introduce meter fare and advice to autorickshaw drivers to be courteous to passengers, Mr. Sampath Kumar says Rs. 30 is too high. Consumers are willing to accept an increase, maybe up to Rs. 20, but certainly not Rs. 30.

Making a comparison among the three fares (Rs. 14, Rs. 20 and Rs. 30), he says the unions claim that after all expenses, a driver's take-home earning every day is between Rs. 110 and Rs. 174 if the minimum fare is Rs. 14.

The unions say the Rs. 30 minimum fare will fetch a daily income of Rs. 324. “But, I am sure that the Rs. 20 minimum fare will give them Rs.300 to Rs.400, depending on the number of trips,” he contends. “But, the unions insist on Rs. 30 as the minimum rate.”

The demand of the unions seeks to equate autorickshaws with call taxis that collect a minimum fare of Rs. 30 to Rs. 35.

But, the taxis can have five to seven passengers. The autorickshaws can hold only two adults, he points out.

Keywords: Transport woes

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