Close on the heels of a proposal to hike bus fare, autorickshaw unions in the city have demanded an increase in fare, citing the spiralling fuel prices and inflation. Fares were last increased in 2013, but since then LPG gas prices have shot up by 78.5%, said union leaders while making their case for a fare hike.
Two prominent unions have petitioned the Transport Department for a fare hike. While Adarsha Auto Union has sought the minimum fare — for 1.9 km — to be hiked to ₹30 from the current ₹25, the Autorickshaw Drivers’ Union (CITU) has demanded a minimum fare of ₹36. The unions have also demanded the fare be fixed in the range of ₹16 to ₹18 for every kilometre later on.
“The Transport Department has assured us that the demands will be looked into. We are very stressed and if there is no relief, we will be forced to take to the streets,” said M. Manjunath, president, Adarsha Auto Union.
When the fares were hiked in 2013, a litre of auto LPG gas cost ₹28, but the price has since risen to ₹49.95 a litre. “Including oil costs, an auto driver incurs a cost of around ₹70 per litre,” said C.N. Srinivas, general secretary, Autorickshaw Drivers’ Union. “In the last year alone, as we were severely hit by the pandemic, the gas prices have shot up by nearly ₹15 a litre,” he added.
Over and above the fuel price hike, autorickshaw unions argue that their incomes have not increased in the last eight years. Adjusted to inflation this only means that incomes had actually dwindled considerably, said union leaders, while pointing out that insurance and other maintenance costs have also shot up.
“It was also during the last eight years that cab services entered and captured a significant share of the hire ride market in the city. Though we have been incurring losses for a couple of years now, we were forced to not seek a hike in fare so as to compete with the corporates with deep pockets that have distorted the market. But that has become untenable now and unless there is a hike in fare, it has become extremely difficult for us to survive,” said Mr. Manjunath.
Auto drivers and their families are fighting to make two ends meet, Raghavendra, a driver, said. “The pandemic hit us so badly, that I had to pull out my children from a private school and enrol them in a cheaper school. On top of it is the fuel hike. Many days, even taking home some money has become difficult. I know of many auto drivers who fast during the day, to take home some money by night,” he said.