Commuters made to shell out Rs.20 more

The increase in petrol prices — by Rs.5.29 a litre from Sunday — has come as a convenient excuse yet again for autorickshaw drivers in the city to demand more fare.

On Sunday, those who regularly use autorickshaws had to shell out at least Rs.20 more on any trip of more than two kilometres. A person who hired an autorickshaw from Vaidhyaraman Street in T. Nagar to travel to Wallajah Road, Triplicane, said he paid Rs.100. Until a few days ago, the same eight-km trip used to cost him Rs.80.

Liani Tlau lives in Choolaimedu and commutes to her workplace in Chetpet, a distance of two km, by autorickshaw everyday. “I pay Rs.50-60 one way. Sometimes they demand Rs.70. I have travelled in many other cities and rates in Chennai are extremely high. The fare meters are never used. Every time I take an autorickshaw, I feel I am ripped off,” she said.

Jaya, who travels from Kellys junction to Stella Maris College daily, said she would have to shell out Rs.30 more from Monday for each trip.

Firm grip

Commuters such as Raghavan, a resident of Nanganallur, also complain about the firm grip that autorickshaw stands have on many neighbourhoods. “Stand autorickshaws further hike up fares. The stands lead to a monopoly in operation. No other autorickshaw is allowed into the locality. They set their own fare structure and commuters have no choice.”

J. Seshasayanam, general secretary of the Madras Metro Auto Drivers' Association, says: “We are left with no option but to increase fares. The government has to do something about the fuel price. Government-approved autorickshaw fares have changed only twice in the past two decades. However, just in the past one year, fuel price has risen 10 times. The new government has to invite all the trade unions for talks and make efforts to introduce a new fare structure.”

Minimal share

Though autorickshaw drivers constantly complain about fuel price hikes, studies show that the fuel component accounts for only around 35 per cent of operational expenditure for a driver. N.S. Srinivasan, former Director of the National Transportation Planning and Research Centre, says that even if petrol prices increase by Rs.8 per litre, the increase in fare per kilometre should be only 25 paise to maintain the “same level of profit for the autorickshaw driver.”

C. Lakshminarain, president of the Madras Auto Passengers Association, said that autorickshaws also offer a decent mileage of 30 km per litre of petrol.

“Drivers demand three times more than the fixed charges. Once the new government is in place, we plan to take up agitations to regularise autorickshaw fares and ensure the use of fare meters,” he said.

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