Auto drivers have okayed the new rates; tariff cards to come in by Sept 15

The revision of autorickshaw fares seems to have led to a win-win situation, with both commuters and autorickshaw driver unions giving it the thumbs up. However, both parties agree that it will take some doing to break the resistance to using the meter.

“It is nearly a decade since auto drivers stopped using the meter and passengers have become accustomed to this. It is difficult to imagine passengers suddenly insisting on the use of the meter. Some may believe that meters will overcharge and that they would get a better rate by bargaining,” said M. S. Rajendran, general secretary of the Tamil Nadu Autorickshaw Drivers Federation.

On Sunday evening, a slew of autorickshaw unions were closeted in discussions about the new tariff. “The absence of bargaining will encourage more people to travel by autorickshaws. With more takers, every driver will be spared the frustration of having to return to his stand empty, after a drop. Increased earnings will enable them to repay loans on their autos easily,” said J. Seshasayanam, general secretary, Madras Metro Auto Drivers Association.

While welcoming the revised meter system, commuters expressed doubts about its implementation. Many think auto drivers will not conscientiously follow it. “The regional transport officials and traffic police have to ensure that drivers stick to it,” said T. Sadagopan, a consumer activist from Pattabiram.

However, autorickshaw unions have reportedly instructed their drivers to adhere to the revised tariff. But they also expect the government to cushion them from the effects of petrol price hikes in the future.

“We want the government to form committees that will ensure a marginal increase in the tariff as and when petrol prices go up. The committee should also enquire into complaints filed by passengers against drivers,” said Mr. Seshasayanam.

Some commuters dismissed the fare revision as eyewash, merely aimed at satisfying the Supreme Court. “It was only after an advocate filed a Public Interest Litigation and the Supreme Court set a deadline that the State government decided to introduce new fares. Passengers have been fleeced for many years, and the government chose to look the other way,” said L. Damodaran, a senior citizen from Balakrishna Street, Mylapore. Others were apprehensive about the meters being tampered with.

Meanwhile, the government has directed autorickshaw drivers to collect the new rate cards from regional transport offices by September 15. The fare for the first 1.8 kilometres is Rs. 25 and Rs. 12 for every additional kilometre.

“The drivers will have to have their meters reset to the revised tariff by October 15,” said Mr. Seshasayanam.

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