A day after the deadline for autorickshaws to get the new rate cards, only some commuters got to see a ticking meter

On Monday morning, many office-goers hailing autorickshaws were in anticipation of a hope that had finally turned into reality — ticking meters.

While some of them were in for a pleasant surprise with the drivers switching them on, many were told the meters were not ready and thus had to go through the routine of haggling.

In areas such as Adyar, Mylapore, Teynampet, T. Nagar, many autos were found to be running on meters. “I was charged Rs. 49 to reach Chintadripet from Nungambakkam. I would have paid Rs. 120 otherwise,” said a commuter.

Autos in Tambaram, Velachery, and most of Thiruvanmiyur were found to be running without meters.

Many passengers felt the auto drivers who had their meters on were discriminating between routes. “Some undertake long distance trips only if they are sure they will get a return savari,” said Sneha Chellakumar, who found it difficult to get an auto from her workplace in Thiruvanmiyur to Navallur.

According to Union officials, only around 45,000 autos could get rate cards, while many were asked to come back with documents and permits. TN Auto Workers Federation general secretary J. Seshasayanam said the government should have given them more time than just 15 days, as most autos were not run by their owners. At least 30,000 of them had been denied rate cards. “The RTOs were closed on Saturdays and Sundays and during the three recent official holidays. How do they expect all 72,000 auto drivers to be checked and granted rate cards when every RTO can dole out just 200 in a day?” he said.

Many drivers such as Shanmugavel who rents an autorickshaw, says he has been running around to get his rate card. “I don’t even know where my owner is as all my dealings are with a middleman, who does the same for several others. Earlier we used to pay Rs. 5,000 to get the name changed to ours, but they stopped that system. Here at least 30,000 autos are not run by the owners.”

“I cannot sit at home till I get the rate card. So I am ferrying only known passengers who will support me if the police check,” he added.

Some drivers have expressed concerns about plying areas where commuters have access to other services, such as share autos and Tata Magic cabs. “It is no use going into areas that have share autos or Magic cabs. The government should have regularised them as they had promised, before enforcing the rule,” said R. Karuppan, an auto driver in Guindy.

There has been general resistance among many drivers to get the meters installed after the petrol prices were increased twice recently.

“The cost of every spare part has increased by 30 per cent. Even the price of a kg of gas increased from Rs. 28 to Rs. 50 rapidly. It would have helped if the cost of every additional kilometer was Rs. 15,” said R. Nallakannu, an auto driver in Mylapore.

Many drivers said they might change over to the new rates once the meters were recalibrated.

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