Over 200 autorickshaw drivers staged a protest on Blackers Road off Anna Salai on Tuesday morning, as a shop that recalibrates meters had remained shut for the past two days.
For more details, see infographic at left.
With only 39 recalibrating outlets in the city and close to 41,000 autorickshaws waiting to have their meters recalibrated before the October 15 deadline, drivers are getting increasingly frustrated.
Drivers said that of the 39 outlets, at least 10 have refused to take in more meters.
“Most of us have been asked us to approach a mechanic on Palli Street. And so, around 200 of us have been waiting in front of the shop since 5 a.m. But even by 11 a.m., the shop was not opened. This has been going on for the past couple of days,” said a driver from T. Nagar. The angry drivers then staged a road roko
“Finally, we called the police and after their intervention, the shop was opened. The owner claimed that he had closed the shop as he already had received so many meters that he couldn’t take in any more. Those of us who gave our meters today will only get them back after 19 days,” said the driver.
The drivers said they have planned to stage a protest on Thursday demanding more time for recalibration. “We need the deadline to be extended as the recalibrating outlets are overloaded and it will take a few more weeks before they can take in more meters. The government should give us time till the first week of November,” a driver said.
Mechanics at several shops said they had hundreds of meters but not enough manpower to recalibrate all of them fast enough. Only around 30,000 of the estimated 71,000 autorickshaws have had their meters calibrated with the new tariff so far.
Transport department officials admitted there was a severe shortage of mechanics. “Initially, each outlet took in 100 meters a day and charged Rs. 350 per meter. But the outlets need to have five mechanics each, while most have only two. We have formed 20 teams of transport officials to help the mechanics and will blacklist those who refuse to take in meters,” an official said.
Auto drivers can use their old meters and calculate the fare based on the rate cards till their meters are calibrated, he said.