A vast majority of autorickshaw drivers has not kept the October 15 deadline for recalibration of meters. Only around 25,000 of the 70,000 city autorickshaws have been subjected to the twin process of meter recalibration and affixation of seals by the RTOs.
A number of factors is said to have contributed to the delay. One, drivers have to get the mechanics as well as Regional Transport Offices to affix seals on the meters. Sources claim while drivers are getting the mechanics to do so, they are not approaching the RTOs to complete this formality because the original documents of their autorickshaws are with money lenders. “The lenders refuse to give the documents unless their dues are settled,” said a transport department official.
“According to the mechanics, around 45,000 auto drivers have recalibrated their meters and have had seals affixed by them. But only around 24,800 drivers have had seals affixed by RTOs,” said a source from the transport department.
Drivers cite shortage of mechanics as one of the reason for the delay in getting the meters recalibrated. There are only 39 mechanics. “Some mechanics are facing a manpower crunch. So, many drivers have started buying new meters,” said J. Seshasayanam, general secretary of the Madras Metro Auto Drivers Association.
Another factor said to be contributing to the delay is the inability of many drivers to track down the original owners of their vehicles. “Transport officials insist we have to bring the first owner under whose name the vehicle is registered. Only then can the vehicle be transferred to our name and we can get the seal. The transport department should be more lenient,” said an autorickshaw union member.
Some autorickshaw unions have gone to court seeking an extension in the deadline for recalibrating meters. “We will provide the government with statistics on the number of autorickshaws that have recalibrated their meters and those that have taken the rate cards. The government will decide on giving an extension,” said the source from the transport department.
In August, the State government announced a revised autorickshaw fare system for the city, under which passengers are required to pay Rs. 25 for the first 1.8 kilometers and Rs. 12 for every additional kilometre.
The autorickshaw drivers were given time till September 15 to collect their rate cards and till October 15 to recalibrate their meters. Till date, around 61,000 drivers have collected the rate cards from different RTOs in the city.