Karthik Subramanian

Most charge passengers still arbitrarily

CHENNAI: More than a month after the State Government revised autorickshaw fares, the ground realities have not changed. Many drivers do not operate the meters and continue to charge passengers arbitrarily. But officials say tough action is just round the corner.

The State Government revised the fares for the first time in a decade, and they came into effect on Republic Day. Most autorickshaw unions agreed that the new tariff Rs. 14 for the first 2 km and Rs. 6 for every subsequent km was reasonable. Since the revision, petrol prices also dropped, though marginally.

But most drivers continue to enjoy a free run in spite of having no excuse not to operate their meters. According to the Transport Commissionerate, almost all drivers had received tariff cards, which list the new tariff against the old, from the respective Regional Transport Offices .

The drivers are now using the deadline for re-calibration as an excuse for not using the meters. The Government, while passing the order effecting the tariff revision, mentioned three deadlines: March 11 for re-calibration of electronic meters, April 25 for re-calibration of mechanical meters, and July 25 for changing mechanical meters to electronic meters.

Despite having the fare cards, most drivers do not use them. They refer to the July 25 deadline as the cut-off date for operating their meters.

The Madras Auto Passengers Association, one of the petitioners in the High Court in a case calling for revision of tariff, had appealed that the new tariff be brought into effect only after ensuring that all autorickshaws had tamper-proof electronic meters.

Calibration of meters

Several drivers have not re-calibrated their meters. This despite the Transport Department fixing a minimum rate for re-calibration. As on Friday, according to official statistics, only 6,365 of the 49,000-plus registered autorickshaws in the city had re-calibrated their meters. At a meeting with Joint Transport Commissioner K. Yogarajan, mechanics had said that spare parts were freely available.

Transport Commissioner C.P. Singh, while responding a complaint from a reader of

The Hindu in the "Reader's Mail" column, said Transport Department officials were carrying out checks along with auto unions and consumer fora across the city. The first such drive was organised between February 15 and 22, and the second drive, which started on February 26, would continue till March 8. He said the checks were yielding good results.

According to some officials, the Transport department was going slow on enforcement only to give "grace period" to the drivers. An official, on the condition of anonymity, said they were forced to go slow because the revision had come after a decade. Strict enforcement would start in the second week of March.