The meter has shaken things up. Stand auto drivers have realised allegiance of regular customers is no longer a given and that they have to make more trips to earn what they used to. Among the positive stories is R. Loganathan’s return to the road as an auto driver
Reluctance to turn on the meter is costing stand autorickshaw drivers dearly. They are losing their regular customers to drivers who abide by the tariff card.
Every morning, Nidhi Rajan takes an autorickshaw from the Srirampettai stand in Nandanam to reach her office in Guindy.
But the past few days, she has changed her routine. Nidhi hurries past the stand and flags the first running autorickshaw she sees.
“The stand autorickshaws don’t go by the meter. They charge at least Rs. 70 more than the correct fare,” she says.
The reluctance among commuters to travel by autorickshaws without functioning meters has hit drivers who are part of stands.
K. Thomas, a driver at an autorickshaw stand in Mylapore, says he can no longer afford to simply wait at the stand for passengers to come to him. “Even our regulars now prefer to flag running autorickshaws as they have meters,” he says.
J. Seshasayanam, general secretary, Madras Metro Auto Drivers, says many stand autorickshaw drivers are yet to procure the new meters as they do not have the necessary permits.
“At least 20,000 autorickshaws have been fined so far. Many drivers are staying at home and not taking the risk of getting caught by traffic policemen,” he says.
There are 350 authorised stands in the city but thousands of unauthorised ones. The autorickshaw unions affiliated to CITU and AITUC say they have 3,000 stands each under their control.
“Stand autorickshaw drivers used to make the most money, at least Rs. 18,000 a month. But, with meter enforcement, our earnings are bound to come down as we cannot demand a return fare,” says G. Manikandan, an autorickshaw driver at a stand in Adyar.
A. Raghavan, a resident of Madipakkam who has to depend on autorickshaws to reach the nearest bus stop, says it is difficult to bargain with drivers at stands.
“The stand guys have monopolised the operation and set their own fare structure. They do not even allow autorickshaws from outside to pick up passengers here,” he says.
Now, Raghavan simply walks a little distance away from the stands and flags a running auto, most of which have meters, he says.