They will not take passengers for a ride

Here is an association that demolishes the usually derogatory image; instead, builds up an image of upholding values, which looks like a scene lifted from the Rajinikanth-starrer ‘Badsha’.

The ‘Tambaram Auto Drivers Welfare Association’, at Kakkan Street of Tambaram has been going on for over 20 years with nearly 25 auto drivers as members. It is surely an association with a difference. Yes, the difference lies in ensuring a professional honesty among the auto driver-members, who have been sticking to the rules and regulations of the association, even at times of adversities.

E. Janakiraman, secretary of the association, says “There are number of welfare associations for auto drivers, however, most of them are affiliated to political parties. So before two decades, there was an idea to start an association exclusively for the welfare of auto drivers and thereby help the commuters as well in all possible ways.

Thus born the association, the brain child of Mr. C. Ulaganathan, the founder of the association, formed for helping auto drivers and also the public as well”.

Having existed for more than 20 years, the association in its present status involve itself in various welfare activities of the members and for the commuters too by way of discharging duty.

The highlight of the association is that it is not affiliated to any political parties. There are several instances, which have borne a testimony to the drivers’ sense of duty and honesty. Cash, valuables or any other precious things, that commuters happened to leave behind, were restored to their owners thanks to the initiative taken by the drivers concerned. Actually, this duty is one of the codes enforced by the association.

There were instances when an auto driver could not trace the commuter who forgot to take back their belongings containing cash and other important documents and he finally handed them over to the nearby police station. Another driver of the association says that he had given back Rs.3,000 and a passport missed by a commuter in his auto. Fortunately, as he could find the address in the passport, he straight away went to the person’s residence, unmindful of the distance, and returned it promptly. “Any item left in the auto, though it turn to be highly precious, will be definitely returned to the commuter, if the address is mentioned, otherwise, will be handed over to the police, adds Mr. Babu.

The association strictly follow the fare structure fixed by the association. And they offer concessions to the local residents, most of whom are well-known to them. S. Sundaram, a senior citizen and resident of the area, says, “Though I stay a few yards away from the association’s auto stand, I make it a point to travel only by this association’s autorickshaws, as they charge a nominal fare. There were occasions, where in I have bargained, when I wanted to travel a long distance; they were polite and gave me a drop at a reasonable charge. Moreover, if I carry heavy luggage, they will help me carry the luggage to my home.”

Not with this, the auto drivers of the association are sympathetic towards patients and charge minimum fares for patients and students. The association has also been taking care of the welfare of the members. The association gives free uniforms to the member-drivers every year. It also gives saris, cash and sweets to the conservancy worker, who cleans the auto-stand every day.

If anyone dies in harness, it pays compensation to the bereaved family and also helps in education of his wards. Apart from this, if there is any function in the any of the drivers’ homes, the association helps the driver by way of providing nominal sum. If any untoward incident happened to any of the drivers, say an accident or other skirmishes, other drivers of the association will unite to safe guard the interest of the affected driver.

The auto-drivers’ association also celebrates the Ayutha Puja with an undercurrent of welfare mood. A few underprivileged children of the area will be given free notebooks, books and required stationery items. Anna dhanam is also provided for the orphan children. Such annual features demonstrate how the auto drivers are united in the sprucing up the sagging image of their professional community. And for all these welfare activities, they charge only Rs.30 per month as membership fee.

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