If you have tried getting an auto to someplace a little further away from your neighbourhood recently, chances are you have been turned down. And not just by one, but several autorickshaw drivers, who, after hearing where you are heading, may speed away without as much as a backward glance.
The strike by auto drivers scheduled for Thursday may have been called off but for commuters like Indu Chandrasekar, who takes autos from near her residence in Adyar to her workplace on Anna Salai, the difficulty in getting an auto may continue. “Auto drivers usually negotiate or ask for Rs. 20 more over the meter charge, but now they just drive away when they hear I want to go to Anna Salai,” she says. It usually takes her around fifteen minutes to find an autorickshaw.
Auto drivers however list out a number of reasons for avoiding long trips.
“It is not just the checking by the transport department that we want to avoid. Longer trips on meter become unaffordable as what we get paid only covers the petrol and oil expenses,” says M. Arumugam, a driver, adding that he prefers shorter trips in the area that allow him to make enough money without wasting too much on petrol.
P. Jayavelu, another driver, drops a regular customer at Porur every day. “Before the meter rule, I used to charge him Rs. 250; now, the charge per meter is exactly Rs. 155 and he gives me Rs. 10 extra. Travelling such a long distance is not affordable anymore and I do not even get a return trip while on the way back to Adyar,” he says.
M. Rajasekar notes that the auto drivers want a compromise where the customer is happy and they get a decent income.
He advocates a hike of the initial charge from Rs. 25 to Rs. 30 and the rate per km from Rs. 12 to Rs. 15.