Back in 2006, the idea of digital meters in Hyderabad’s autorickshaws was welcomed by the public, as it was said that they could prevent auto drivers from tampering with the meters.
Since then, 50,033 autorickshaws in the city have digital metres, but it seems that the government hasn’t been successful in its endeavour to curb the menace.
Even after introduction of digital meters in autorickshaws, drivers continue to take passengers for a ride, literally.
As of 2012, the State Transport Appellate Tribunal in Hyderabad registered 918 cases against auto drivers. In the past two months, 163 complaints have been registered against auto drivers by the city travellers.
The fraudulent practices by autorickshaw drivers have come to the notice of transport authorities.
Apart from substituting original chips with those that record higher fares, the use of capacitors has become rampant.
“These devices allow autorickshaw drivers to ‘increase’ the number of wheel rotations which doubles the figure shown on the meter since a larger distance is covered. They are usually connected to handles or indicators,” says K. Vijaysarathy, Police Inspector, Department of Legal Metrology.
300 autos seized
Habib, an employee at the department says, “Capacitors are commonly found in new autos. Nearly 300 autorickshaws have been seized with capacitors.”
Srinivas, Assistant Controller, Legal Metrology Department adds, “These devices are used specially to cheat non-locals.”
While Hyderabad is yet to find its own way of tackling these issues, inspiration can be drawn from other cities. Last year, a campaign was started in Mumbai to protest against the fraudulent insertion of integrated circuits in meters to record higher fares.
The government of Delhi has introduced GPS-based vehicle tracking systems which record the distance covered and charges passengers accordingly.
The system has the ability to track drivers down and ensure that they take the shortest and the fastest route.
There have been panic buttons attached to combat any kind of emergency as well.
The Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra governments have started providing subsidies to their drivers in order to help them cover diesel and maintenance costs, making things fairly economical.
Hyderabad could specially draw inspiration from a success story like that of the ‘Namma Autos’ started by Chennai’s Mansoor Ali Khan and Md. Abdullah that provides its drivers with a steady income, the minimum being 18,000 per month and an opportunity to own their own vehicles on satisfactory performance.
The set-up has greatly reduced chances of malpractice.
The introduction of digital meters has done little to curb tampering by