How many times have you been faced with extortionary demands from autorickshaw drivers with dodgy meters? To prevent them holding hapless commuters to ransom, the State Government intends to make digital electronic meters compulsory for all autorickshaws being operated all over the State in place of the existing mechanical ones.

To this effect, the Transport Department issued a preliminary notification through a special gazette on July 20, inviting objections for the same within 30 days. The notification, the Karnataka Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Rules, 2009, intends to make it compulsory for all autorickshaws plying in public places to be fitted with taxi meters.

Every autorickshaw operating within towns and cities to be notified by the Government, should be fitted with digital electronic meters, the notification said. In places other than notified ones, autorickshaws may be fitted either with mechanical or digital electronic meters.

Sources in the department told The Hindu that once the final notification was issued, the department would enforce the rule in Bangalore city first. “Bangalore has the highest number of autorickshaws - over 85,000 - and the enforcement of the amended rule is all the more necessary here,” the sources said. Unlike mechanical taxi meters, digital taxi meters cannot be tampered with and passengers can expect a “fair fare display”, they said.

New autorickshaws will be issued permits only if they are fitted with digital meters. On the other hand, to prevent current autorickshaw owners/drivers from avoiding installing digital meters, the notification makes it mandatory that renewal or transfer of permits will be allowed only if they are fitted with digital meters.

A digital meter costs around Rs. 3,000, just Rs. 500 more than a mechanical one. The Government offers a subsidy of Rs. 1,000 to existing autorickshaw owners to make the shift, the sources said.

Drivers’ protest

However, the Government’s move has not gone down well with autorickshaw drivers, who said the measure was of no use to passengers. The Autorickshaw Drivers’ Union (ARDU), Bangalore, affiliated to the Centre of Indian Trade Unions, has been holding relay protests in front of every city Regional Transport Office, protesting against the Government directive.

The ARDU said that for 40,000 vehicles which did not have digital meters, the expenses would come up to Rs. 13 crore. It alleged that the move was not aimed at helping passengers, but to help meter manufacturers. There were not many digital meter repairers in Bangalore and that the meter spare parts were too costly, the union added.

Keywords: Autodigital meter