While commuters are hoping that the fares will be enforced, M. Balaganessin finds that auto drivers are not in favour of it

The State government, after a gap of six years, revised the autorickshaw fares in Chennai city. The revision came in the light of the Supreme Court’s direction to Tamil Nadu government to fix the new autorickshaw fares.

Spurt in fuel prices made the government fix the fare for the first 1.8 km as Rs. 25 and Rs. 12 for every additional kilometre. The late night (11 p.m. to 5 a.m.) charges have been fixed at 50 per cent over and above the meter fare. The waiting charge has been fixed at Rs. 3.50 for every five minutes and Rs. 42 for an hour. The new fare structure came into force last week and the drivers have to recalibrate their meters by October 15.

This swift move of the government has gladdened all sections of society. With all the major schemes introduced by the government such as the budget canteens supplying breakfast and lunch at subsidised rates initially in the State capital, were later extended to other parts of the State, the people of Tiruchi expect the State government to introduce the revised autorickshaw fares in Tiruchi too.

Autorickshaw drivers fleecing the hapless commuters are a common happening in Tiruchi. The people arriving by buses and trains in the early morning hours have to be always at the mercy of the autorickshaw drivers. Some unscrupulous autorickshaw drivers treat the commuters in such a shabby manner that as high as Rs. 100 is charged even for a short distance of half a km from the Tiruchi Junction to Central Bus Stand.

The district authorities introduced point to point fare and the same too was displayed in public places. But this system was an utter failure, much to the disappointment of the commuters. Repeated pleas for introduction of pre-paid auto system too have not yielded any result, with the commuters silently suffering at the hands of autorickshaw drivers for years together.

However, the autorickshaw drivers in the city are opposed to the move to introduce the Chennai model of meters in Tiruchi city. They say the geographical area and the number of autorickshaw stands in Chennai were different from a relatively smaller city of Tiruchi. “No doubt, our tariff is higher than that in Chennai. From Tennur to the Ponnagar our tariff is Rs. 120.

This would be about Rs. 45 or Rs. 50 based on government tariff. But, during the return, we do not pick up passengers. In fact we avoid the wrath of autorickshaw drivers at a number of stands en route,” says Syed Ibrahim, an autorickshaw driver at Tennur.

The autorickshaw drivers say although it was a welcome measure benefiting both the consumers and the autorickshaw drivers, it was suited for a large city like Chennai. They are optimistic that the government’s norms would be Tiruchi-specific. They all appreciate the concession for autorickshaw drivers at night and early morning. “Even consumers are convinced of the difficulties of the autorichaw drivers during the odd-hours and volunteer to give extra money,” they say.

A. Zaikr Hussain, another autorickshaw driver of Palpannai traffic island, says that Tiruchi city accounted for a large number of autorickshaws — more than what is needed. He points out that the number of autorickshaw stands should be minimised to enforce the meter fare.

Pandian of the stand near the KAP Viswanatham Higher Secondary School in Thillainagar, says the scheme would not materialise in Tiruchi city. He says the Centre and the State governments should take special efforts to market subsidised diesel rate for autorickshaws and passenger vehicles “At any cost, the government’s rates will not be commensurate with the soaring prices of petrol and diesel, maintenance of the vehicles,” he says.