After he began to steer his autorickshaw along the lines drawn by the new tariff system, G. Sridhar from T. Nagar witnessed a sharp rise in the number of customers he received.

He was, needless to say, a very happy man. But the petrol price hike has now cut short his joy. And the fear of future hikes has left him questioning the logic behind the fixed tariff for autorickshaw drivers.

Sridhar is not alone. Many other autorickshaw drivers in the city have begun asking the same question. Some have gone one step ahead and thought out solutions. Shanti Dayalan, an autorickshaw driver, says, “Whenever fuel prices go up by Rs. 10 in a staggered fashion, a fare revision has to be effected.” Like most other auto drivers, Shanti believes a committee has to be established to specifically look into this matter.

Transport department officials however say that no final decision has been taken on the formation of such a committee.

Sridhar says the majority of auto drivers are saddled with vehicle loans. Fuel hikes without corresponding fare revisions will only make their financial burden heavier. Auto drivers point out that indifference to this issue can wreck the government’s attempt at regularising auto fares. “If the government does not step in and resolve this issue, drivers may feel compelled to ignore the new tariff and overcharge,” says Murugan from K.K. Nagar.

Meanwhile, the work of providing auto drivers with rate cards is reportedly going on at full steam. According to a transport department official, nearly 5,000 drivers have received the cards from regional transport offices over the last two days.

“From Monday, more drivers will start collecting the cards. Commuters have also become aware about the revised fares and are demanding that drivers charge them as per these rates,” he says.

Shanti charges by the tariff card, but says the system will be far from perfect until the GPS meters are brought in and installed. “The confusion over the rates will be settled only after the GPS meters are provided by the government. Until then, we have to peer at the rate cards and charge our customers. It is a cumbersome process that takes time. But passengers are not complaining,” she says.

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