An accident can push an auto driver’s family deep into debt

The accident that took place on M.G. Road on Sunday, which killed an autorickshaw passenger and grievously injured another and the driver, raises concerns about the hardships autorickshaw drivers in the city face.

Union leaders emphasised that autorickshaw drivers, who are part of the unorganised sector, don’t have adequate government support to help them in such situations. Though most autorickshaw drivers are insured, the union members point out that the process of getting reimbursements is extremely difficult. At present, drivers can claim Rs. 50,000 under the accident relief fund if they present the necessary documents.

Sudden braking

Recollecting how an accident dragged him into indebtedness, Rajesh B. (33) said he was seriously injured in Sunkadakatte in December 2012 when his autorickshaw overturned after he braked suddenly to avoid an oncoming vehicle. “One accident is enough to put our family into debt. I had to spend over Rs. 20,000 on my treatment and to repair the vehicle,” he said adding that he is the sole breadwinner of his family.

Moreover, he had to take off for two months to recover. “We don’t have any savings and depend on daily earnings. I’m still repaying the loans I took to pay my rent and food bills.”

Insurance affordability

M. Manjunath of the Adarsha Auto Drivers’ Union pointed out that drivers have to pay Rs. 3,000 to Rs. 4,000 a year towards their insurance. “With a monthly income less than Rs. 10,000 per month, paying such a huge amount is difficult and a large number of them cannot afford to pay the premium.”

Stating that an accident could hit livelihoods, he said there was a need to conduct road safety campaigns for auto drivers.

Javaregowda, president of Bruhat Bangalore Auto and Taxi Drivers’ Union, pointed out the need for more stringent standards while issuing licences to ensure road safety and minimise accidents.

Separate auto lanes

There was a time when there was a dedicated lane for autorickshaws in some parts of the city such as M.G. Road and K.G. Road. However, they disappeared in due course. B. Chandrashekar of the Rajiv Gandhi Auto Drivers’ Union said there was a need to revive the plan.

“Driving autorickshaws, particularly over the last 2-3 years, has been a nightmare because of the traffic congestion. Most four-wheelers try to overtake us in an extremely rash manner. Providing separate auto lanes will not only ensure safety of our drivers but also passengers,” Mr. Chandrashekar added.

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