Mukundan, a resident of Nungambakkam, arrived in Chennai from Bangalore on Sunday morning and had a tough time getting home.
The reason — the mayhem involved in hiring an autorickshaw in the city during rains.
When the city receives rains and the roads get flooded, the service offered by most autorickshaw drivers turns expensive. “I often take the auto from the railway station after I return from Bangalore and I usually pay Rs. 150. The minute the auto drivers see the rains drops fall, their fare increases by Rs. 100,” said Mukundan.
The recent spells of rain in the city have once again resulted in an increase in autorickshaw fares. As the number of vehicles on the roads fall following showers, the drivers, sensing the demand for their service among the public, cash in on the situation .
“Our city not having a regulated fare, according to the kilometres, always leads to arguments between autorickshaw drivers and commuters. So one can imagine the chaos during rains,” said C. Shanmugam, a resident of Alwarthirunagar.
But the autorickshaw drivers argue that the rains damage their vehicles making it difficult to ply the roads and therefore fall in need of repair work soon after.
“We demand about Rs. 10 extra from passengers during rains. Our vehicles suffer a lot of damage during the rains. The shock absorbers wear out and an overall oiling, greasing and servicing of the vehicle is necessary to start using it after rains,” said Kumar, an autorickshaw driver for the stand near Chintadripet MRTS station.
According to driver, Vijayakumar, from Egmore, some drivers can afford to not offer rides during rains but many like he, cannot. “I have to pay my daily dues apart from feeding my family. Therefore, the rainy season is a good time for me as I can make that extra cash. The vehicle does get damaged after running on flood water, but life goes on despite hurdles,” he said.
A rise in autorickshaw fares in the city has become inevitable, especially during rains.
There would be some relief for passengers only if the State can step in with some fixed rates or revive the metre system which has been the public’s demand for many years now.