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Updated: August 9, 2011 15:18 IST

Boon and bane; blessing and curse

Muralidhara Khajane
Comment (9)   ·   print   ·   T  T  
A LITANY OF COMPLAINTS: Commuters accuse auto drivers of being a law unto themselves, violating
traffic rules at will, contributing to atmospheric and noise pollution and harassing them by
overcharging or refusing to operate. File Photo: K. Murali Kumar
The Hindu
A LITANY OF COMPLAINTS: Commuters accuse auto drivers of being a law unto themselves, violating traffic rules at will, contributing to atmospheric and noise pollution and harassing them by overcharging or refusing to operate. File Photo: K. Murali Kumar

Bangaloreans have a love-hate relationship with the ubiquitous autorickshaw

A harried commuter late for work stops an autorickshaw at 9.30 a.m. and asks: “Koramangala?” The auto driver doesn't bat an eyelid: “Rs. 150, sir.” The man, knocked for a six, points out that it's barely eight km away. After due haggling, they settle for a deal of “Rs. 10 more on the meter”.

Scenes like these are common on the streets of Bangalore. With the city becoming truly “Bruhat Bengaluru” and the public transport system unable to keep pace with the needs of the burgeoning metropolis, lakhs are dependent on autorickshaws. And during the rainy season, the dependence goes up even more.

Population explosion

Bangalore has an estimated population of 84.74 lakh as per the 2011 census, practically doubling in the last 10 years, and growing at the rate of 3.25 per cent.

Simultaneously, there has been a phenomenal growth in the population of vehicles. With household incomes rising, there is a boom in the population of two- and four- wheelers, leading to severe congestion on the roads. An average Bangalorean spends more than 240 hours stuck in traffic every year, according to Comprehensive Traffic and Transportation Study (CTTS) done by Rail India Technical and Economic Services (RITES).

Indispensable

Despite the claim that the city has the best public transport system in the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC), with 6,122 schedules and earning traffic revenue to the tune of Rs. 3.4 crore a day, commuters still find themselves hard-pressed, particularly with first- and last-mile connectivity. Which is why Bangaloreans are dependent on the huge network of autorickshaws, now an indispensable part of the public transport system.

According to sources in the Transport Department, there are over 80,000 licensed autorickshaws in the city, besides 45,000 running without proper documents. So the city has an estimated autorickshaw population of 1.25 lakh. These are manned by over three lakh auto drivers doing multiple shifts.

Ever since then Mayor Keshava permitted a foreign couple to operate 10 autorickshaws on a trial basis in Shivajinagar 61 years ago, these noisy little three-wheelers have become an inseparable part of the Bangalorean's life who shares a love-hate relationship with them.

Commuters accuse auto drivers of being a law unto themselves, violating traffic rules at will, contributing to atmospheric and noise pollution and harassing them by overcharging or refusing to operate.

No proper study

Meenakshi Sundram, State president, Federation of Karnataka Auto Rickshaw Drivers' Unions (FKARDU), concedes that while some drivers may overcharge their passengers, little understanding and research have gone into the economy of this important transport segment. He attributes multiple factors such as barriers in access to the credit to buy autos, lack of social security, family conditions, demography, absence of timely revision of fares and alleged harassment by the police.

FKARDU general secretary Raghavendra says extending benefits of Below Poverty Line card and other social security benefits, besides revision of rates with the increase in petroleum prices will improve the situation significantly.

Most are rented

Praveen Kumar, an auto driver from Malleswaram, says more than 90 per cent of the drivers depend on rented autos by paying anywhere between Rs. 100 to Rs. 200 a day.

“With a sizeable chunk of my earnings spent on paying rent, how can I support my family?” he asks.

A major problem is access to credit.

“To get a bank loan to buy an auto, we have to pay Rs. 20,000 to 30,000 to middlemen, as it is difficult to get loans directly from banks. Many auto drivers depend on private financiers who charge an exorbitant 24 per cent interest,” he says.

The latest in their list of woes is the Government's decision to fix minimum educational qualification to get a driving licence. “If we had good qualification, why would we opt for this stressful job?” he asks.

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Good one Mr. Khajane. The choler in your article indicates that this has been first time you have taken a rick on the roads of Bangalore. And more importantly, it also shows that you have never hired an rick in Chennai. Next time you go to Chennai, try taking a rick from the Central Railway Station to Hindu's office which is hardly 2 kms away, you would be surprised to see the bargaining start anywhere between Rs 90 to 110, and even after enquiring with 10 drivers, not coming below Rs 60. Try this and I am sure you would have a book to write when you get down at your office.

from:  Sriram
Posted on: Jun 7, 2011 at 18:46 IST

This is really a nuisance in any city. Now a days it has become a common thing that common public is being harassed by the autorickshaw walas and bus conductors, etc. The State Government should take some stern measures against this. As it is the common man is suffering from petrol hikes, the extra charges by the transport service is doing the icing on the cake, in the negative sense ofcourse!

from:  Prakhar Maheshwari
Posted on: Jun 7, 2011 at 18:44 IST

Although some drivers do bargain the meter rates, especially peak hours, in general the meters are followed. Which is better than not using a meter at all, like in Chennai. And the increase in traffic should also be attributed to the number of autos as well. In a 200m traffic signal one can easily find 20 autos. And also the buses being used by IT companies for their transportation. However carpooling has considerably increased over past couple of years. The main reasons for namma Bengaluru's traffic woes are the excessive use of vehicles for small distance travel(like to get groceries), ad-hoc parking, and very bad planning to handle congestion (unnecessary flyovers, unplanned signals, work in uneven places etc ).

from:  Vijay
Posted on: Jun 7, 2011 at 18:43 IST

Nice article; points out the core of the issue, that needs to be addressed for auto-rickshaws to be become a fair and preferred mode of transportation in Bangalore. Government should run a program to provide credit for auto-rickshaws and get rid of all middleman. Minimum educational qualification for driving license is ridiculous and elitist.

from:  Goohun
Posted on: Jun 7, 2011 at 16:52 IST

Whether it is Bangaluru or Pune, or other city, there are enough number of commuters' woes. We have to look at the problem from the point of view of both the commuters and the auto rikshaw drivers. While it is necessary that auto rikshaw driver earns enough to make a living, commuters cannot be taken for a ride. To get loans it is for the drivers to get united, and form co-operative credit societies etc to solve their problems. The government has to give assistance to form such societies. As regards the increase in tariff there has to be a permanent solution as the increase in petrol price is a regular phenomena.

from:  Narendra M Apte
Posted on: Jun 7, 2011 at 15:59 IST

I am staying in Chennai for past 2 years, and I have never paid a auto guy on meter basis,so you people are better off!!

from:  Linitha
Posted on: Jun 7, 2011 at 15:59 IST

This is a true story, i did experience this few weeks ago. Worth to mention, this was not really a case few years ago, more and more people are now a days shifting their base to Bangalore and hence this chaotic situation. The local administration must address this issue by putting in more stringent rules to be followed by the auto drivers. Though it is made mandatory to have Auto driver details displayed inside auto, I happen to see such details expired! Seems the drivers are not really bothered to renew such mandatory disclosures. Way to go Bangalore!

from:  Vijay Honnungar
Posted on: Jun 7, 2011 at 14:55 IST

I came down over to Bangalore from Chennai in 2008 and I was surprised to find a proper metered autorickshaw system unlike the ones at Chennai. Auto drivers here were more friendly and never overcharged. I was comfortable taking an auto everywhere. All i need to do was to mention the destnation and hop in. The scenario now, in 2011 has changed. Auto drivers have become rude and overcharge very frequently. Most of them seem to have stopped the usage of the meter. Why this change? The traffic police have relaxed or the BBMP? Its high time the authorities look into the issue as a serious one and bring back the strict use of meters.

from:  Karthik
Posted on: Jun 7, 2011 at 11:41 IST

I only take autos from pre-paid stands, and that itself is now turned into a scam by the drivers. Not many autos come into the line during peak hours, and the cops do not do anything to them. Some of the drivers are very dishonest, and should never have been in a people facing job in any industry. I have met one or two outrightly honest drivers in about 100, and about 40 of them can be forced to be honest, but the rest, they can never be fixed.

from:  Adam
Posted on: Jun 7, 2011 at 10:09 IST
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