With a light yellow facade displaying the tourist hot-spots of Tamil Nadu, some 113 tourist-friendly autorickshaws are plying in the city, as of now. The Tourism Department launched them last year in order to change the perception of autorickshaw drivers in the city. With almost every tourist brochure warning visitors to beware of autorickshaw drivers who are out there to fleece, the new concept was intended to win the trust of passengers and provide them a hassle-free ride across the city.

A senior official of the department said the autorickshaw drivers had been trained to make themselves presentable and treat the customers with respect and only charge as per the meter. The drivers have also picked up some English.

However, the drivers of these autorickshaws said the demand for their services is low and the income is hardly sufficient to make ends meet. P. Aalayamani, a driver at Harbour, said he had not paid his financier for the last four months and the debt was mounting.

“Since our autorickshaw appears different on the exterior, ordinary passengers do not approach us,” he said. He added that though he had serviced several tourists who came to the Harbour and also at the airport, the arrival was not steady and he was unable to sustain his family.

Janakiraman, another tourist-friendly autorickshaw driver, said the incessant rain in the last few days and the recent swine flu scare had affected tourist arrivals into the city. Sources in the department said they had plans to launch more such autorickshaws in the city. Drivers who are already plying these autorickshaws in the city said the only way out to mitigate their woes was to issue them permits for the vehicles.

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