The State transport department has adopted a novel method to persuade autorickshaw drivers to use meters — psychological counselling.

As a pilot project, the first counselling session, involving K.S. Subbiah, retired psychiatry professor of Madras Medical College, and Paul Barnabas, from Tamil Nadu Consumer Protection Organisation, was held at Aynavaram RTO last week.

A total of 60 drivers took part in the workshop.

The counselling session will be extended to the 11 RTOs in the city.

The Aynavaram RTO invited all autorickshaws plying in their jurisdiction. No transport officer was allowed to take part in the session.

Autorickshaw drivers who took part in the session told The Hindu after the counselling session, they were able to identify their mistakes as no government official had spoken to them politely earlier.

“Initially, we were very agitated and spoke of harassment by policemen and the difficulty of earning a living with the revised fares as fuel prices were on the rise,” said S. Senthil, an autorickshaw driver who took part in the counselling.

After hearing their woes, Dr. Subbiah told the drivers it was important to follow government rules. “He told us we had to work harder and save money instead of spending it on alcohol. He said the main reason for our agitation was alcohol. What he said was correct,” said K. Manikandan, another autorickshaw driver.

Mr. Barnabas advised the drivers to keep all their documents updated and ready at all times. “I also told them to wear their uniforms and look neat. That way, policemen will not pull them up unnecessarily,” said Mr. Barnabas.

However, some drivers said illegal share autorickshaws were eating into their revenue. “Most passengers pay a little more than the fare on the meter. But our main problem is the share autorickshaw. We want the government to take action against the illegal vehicles,” said autorickshaw driver Senthil.

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