Transport department begins crackdown after several commuters complain of meterless autorickshaws

The transport department is going full steam ahead to ensure that autorickshaw drivers in the city follow the revised fare system — officials said that if drivers do not turn on their meters, their vehicle’s fitness certificates will be withdrawn.

This is the first step towards intensifying enforcement of the meter system. Over the past few days, the department has received several complaints from commuters about drivers not turning on their meters or claiming they are defunct.

“If an autorickshaw’s meter is not in working condition, we can withdraw their fitness certificate. If the driver still does not repair his meter and re-apply for the certificate, we will issue a showcause notice to cancel his license and then his vehicle’s permit. Without these documents, the vehicle cannot operate in the city,” said a transport department official.

Officials said that though there were a few drivers who had already started using the meter, there were many who continued to refuse to use them. “As the drivers are expecting the government to provide them with GPS meters soon, they do not want to recalibrate or repair their existing meters. But this is against the norms as they are supposed to switch on their meters and use the amount to calculate the revised fare based on the rate card that is being distributed to them,” said the official.

As of Monday, only 9,000 autorickshaw drivers have collected their rate cards. “There are 12 regional transport offices in the city and each of them has been asked to distribute at least 600 cards every day. In 10 days, 72,000 cards will be distributed,” said the official.

The helpline set up by the transport department is also up and running, and has received 18 complaints to date. Most are related to drivers charging excess fares. Officials said showcause notices have been sent to these drivers. “The calls are all from the city, not the suburbs,” an official said.

“I took an autorickshaw from Adyar depot to Gandhi Mandapam. The driver asked me for Rs. 80. When I argued with him about the new fares, he said that a lot of petrol gets wasted waiting in heavy traffic and with the hike in fuel prices, it was not feasible to charge as per the new tariff,” said Vidya Srinivas, a resident of Adyar.

Autorickshaw union representatives however, are happy with the new system. On Monday, they met Chief Minister Jayalalithaa and thanked her for revising the fares. “She listened to our problems including those pertaining to autorickshaw stands and permits. She has assured us that these problems will be sorted out soon,” said J. Seshasayanam, general secretary, Madras Metro Auto Drivers’ Association.

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