They are keeping auto-rickshaw drivers at bay
Here is a no-auto gang in the city. They are prepared to walk, pedal their way through long distances on cycle or board a bus. The number of strong-willed persons, determined not to hire an auto-rickshaw is increasing in the city, and understandably so.
Vexed by the grossly unfair “fare anarchy” unleashed by auto-rickshaw drivers, a large chunk of commuters are keeping them at bay.
Auto-rickshaws in the city have a history of violating rules. The digital meters fixed to the vehicles are never switched on, and any attempt to ask for them invites glares.
“It is not practical in small cities like Vijayawada. The territory being limited, the operators barely earn any money otherwise. We have pre-paid auto-stands at Pundit Nehru Bus Station and the railway station for travellers, and that serves the purpose,” says Donepudi Sankar, general secretary of the AITUC-affiliated Vijayawada Auto Workers’ Union.
“Use of a meter does not get us good remuneration. Moreover, when the local crowd is accustomed to paying fares without the metre, why all the fuss?” asks B. Srinivas, an auto driver from Ashoknagar.
The Transport Department, meanwhile, says it insists on meters. “We are firm on renewing fitness certificate only after ensuring that the vehicle has a digital meter affixed, and they have also been sealed to prevent tampering,” says C.H.V.K. Subba Rao, Regional Transport Officer, Krishna.
A total number of 8,600 auto-rickshaws operate within the city limits. The minimum fare (for 1.6 km) as per a GO issued on February 17 this year is Rs. 20, and for each subsequent kilometre it is Rs. 11, in addition to 50 paise for detention charges (every minute). But auto drivers charge almost double the amount. Interestingly, the RTO apparently is not aware of the revised rates.
“I have never seen any auto driver using meter in the city. They demand exorbitant fares, and the passengers have no choice but to concede. They enjoy this impunity because the department looks the other way,” says an upset Hymavathi, a housewife.
Even as commuters complain of perennial apathy, the Motor Vehicle wing pushes the blame on passengers. “We don’t get complaints. Unless we get one, the department cannot act,” says Motor Vehicle Inspector G. Naga Murali.