In a move that has caused much inconvenience to tourists, the Puducherry transport department has placed a ban on two-wheeler rentals.
The decision was taken after much pressure from autorickshaw unions to discontinue such rentals since they were eating into their revenue.
On Saturday most two-wheeler rental shops sported display boards that apologised to tourists for the ‘inconvenience caused’ by the Puducherry RTO’s move. Several tourists visited these shops only to be denied rentals. As a result, many of them were forced to use autorickshaws for transportation.
The step was taken by the transport department in a move to encourage autorickshaw drivers to use meters and prevent the illegal rental of two-wheelers, an official said. Unfortunately, despite the step in their favour, autorickshaws continue to ply without meters.
“I took an auto from the bus stand to a bike rental shop and it cost me Rs. 120. I wanted to head to Auroville, but they asked for Rs. 700 for a return trip. I think I will catch a bus or look for some other form of transport,” said Ramya, a tourist.
According to an owner of a rental shop, there are around 30 such shops across the town with over 600 rental vehicles.
The most demand for these rentals comes in over the weekend, when many visitors come from Chennai and Bangalore. As a result, even though the ban has been in place for around a week, it is only now the shops are feeling the pinch.
For over a decade now, shops across Puducherry have rented out two-wheelers. Many of these shops started out as cycle-rental shops, but almost all of them have made the transition to scooters and motorcycles.
Many tourists, both Indian and Foreign, head straight from the bus stand to these bike rental shops. Even hotels across the town recommend these rentals to tourists.
“Before the ban, autorickshaw drivers would bring tourists to these shops to rent bikes. For every tourist that an autorickshaw driver brought, he would demand a commission of Rs. 50. Despite this, they have now turned against us saying we are ruining their trade,” a rental operator said.
According to another shop owner, even though they had approached the government to obtain legal permission to run these shops, they had been denied permission. They were figuring what steps to take next, the owner said.
Speaking to The Hindu, an official from the transport department said the two-wheeler rentals had been operating illegally for several years now. In their drive to encourage autorickshaws to demand correct fares, they had also decided to impose a strict ban on such rentals.
Although rental shop owners approached the transport department for a permit, they did not meet certain criteria, an official said. For example, most of the shops park their vehicles on the road and not inside their premises. Also, none of them have workshops for repair and maintenance.
The transport department had issued a notice to 28 shops across the town stating they were “hereby directed to desist from unlawful renting of vehicles and remove all vehicles used illegally for hire.”
The rental of vehicles without a permit is illegal under Section 192A of the Motor Vehicles Act and is subject to a fine of up to Rs. 5,000 per vehicle.
It is unlikely that these shops will be given permits to ply their trade, the official said. A decision in this regard has to be made by the state transport authority, which includes the special secretary for transport as well as the superintendent of police (traffic), he said.