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Now, ride in autorickshaws is a luxury

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S. Ganesan

Rise in prices of fuel as well as essential commodities leads to increase in fare, say drivers

TIRUCHI: Autorickshaw fares in the City have gone up by 10 to 20 per cent consequent to the fuel price hike.

The unofficial minimum fare now is Rs.20 to 25 against the government fixed rate of Rs.14. While residents view the hike disproportionate to the rise in the price of petrol, autorickshaw drivers and their unions contend that the rise in the fare was not only on account of the increase in fuel price but also due to the rise in the prices of essential commodities.

A majority of the over 4,000 autos in the city continue to ply without meters, despite a directive from the district administration last year.

A fare card brought out by the Transport Department, stipulating the rates between various points in the city, never came to be enforced. With no pre-paid system or fixed fare structure, city residents complain that they were being fleeced.

A five kilometre ride between Anna Nagar and the Central Bus Stand, for instance, costs as much as Rs.50 now. The fare for a ride from the Central Bus Stand to Chathram Bus Stand in the city is Rs.70, against Rs.60 prior to the fuel price hike.

The fare for a one-way trip to Srirangam from the bus stand is Rs.120 now (Rs.100 earlier) and a two-way ride would cost you Rs.200 (Rs.150 to Rs.175 previously). A ride to K.K. Nagar costs Rs.70. The sample fares are only to the bus terminus at the respective localities and even a short distance further would cost Rs.10 or more.

Autorickshaw drivers have a interesting fare structure for trips to Thillai Nagar from the bus stand – Rs. 40 up to the XI Cross; Rs.50 to VIII Cross and Rs.60 to I Cross.

All the cross roads are located off the Thillai Nagar Main Road, which runs less than a kilometre. And if you want to travel to the Railway Junction from the Bus Stand, less than a kilometre again, the fare is Rs.25. The fares are much higher during nights.

“We cannot afford auto rides any longer. We have limited our trips in autos to urgent necessities or emergencies only,” says G. Chithra, a resident of Manikandam. Consumer organisations find the auto fares unreasonable. “Auto drivers are not willing to abide by any regulation and there is a lack of political will to enforce a fare structure or the meter system,” observes S. Pushpavanam, Secretary, Consumer Protection Council, Tamil Nadu.

Several autorickshaw drivers attribute the hike in fares to ‘stand system’ in vogue in the city. “We cannot take passengers after a one-way trip, as the drivers at that place would resist. When I go back to my stand, I have to wait in a queue for a considerable time to get my next turn,” says K. Saravanan, an auto driver, operating from the bus stand area. Mr. Saravanan concedes that they have to justify the hike in fares to customers. “We explain our position and most customers are convinced,” he claims.

Effect of inflation

Auto drivers say that they have to earn at least Rs.250 a day to make both ends meet. “Apart from fuel costs, we have to pay the rental (normally Rs.80 a day) and minor repairs of up to Rs.30 a day. This would leave us with just about Rs.100 a day,” adds Saravanan.

“Given the inflation, auto drivers too have to make a living. Even before the hike in fuel price, we have been demanding a minimum fare of Rs.20. We are willing to use meters if this demand is conceded,” says V.V. Krishnamurthy, president of Autorickshaw Drivers’ Association, affiliated to the Centre of Indian Trade Unions .

Pointing out that only people from low and middle income groups patronise autorickshaws, Mr. Krishnamurthy suggests that the government should either supply petrol to autos at subsidised rates or provide assistance for auto drivers to go for fuel conversion (from petrol to gas).

Only such an initiative could protect the interests of both sections, he feels.

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