In Chennai, too many meters, too few parts

Hundreds of auto drivers are being turned away as the 39 meter calibration centres in the city are overburdened. Photo: R. Ravindran  

Chaos prevailed at many of the 39 meter calibration centres in the city, as hundreds of autorickshaw drivers were denied services and asked to come back next month to get their old meters recalibrated with the new rates.

Mechanics at these centres said the integrated circuits (ICs) and the other spare parts to be embedded in the new meters had either run out or were not available in the market. According to transport department officials, only about 10,000 meters have been recalibrated so far. There are over 71,000 registered autorickshaws in the city.

At two centres in Pudupet, dozens of auto drivers thronged, demanding that their old meters be given back to them as they were being fined for driving without meters. A few centres on Anna Salai were closed as the mechanics, unable to handle the crowds, were working from home.

Each centre is able to recalibrate only around 25 meters every day and most of them have at least 300 to work on.

Ganesan, a mechanic, has kept his mobile phone switched off for days now and has even removed his phone number from the shop’s hoarding to avoid calls from agitated drivers. He said the problem was that the autos had different kinds of meters. “While those who use ‘Diamond’ and ‘Standard’ meters are able to get their meters calibrated in a few weeks, the ones using meters such as ‘Super’, ‘Right’ and other locally-manufactured ones have to wait until the ICs and spare parts arrive,” he said.

Despite working day and night, Ganesan said he still has 500 meters waiting to be fixed, only after which he can take more orders. “It takes more than two hours to recalibrate one meter,” he said. Most of the centres are run by just one person, often not trained in electronic meters.

Many auto drivers said they had spent several days going from centre to centre to try and get their meters recalibrated. They said they did not want to ply without a meter because of the ongoing crackdown by the police.

“I tried telling the police that I had given my meter at a centre and that I would use the new rate card. But I still had to pay a fine of Rs. 500,” said K. Sentamilselvan, who had given his meter at a centre in K.K. Nagar about a month ago. “The mechanic says he is not sure when it will be ready. The rent on my auto is Rs. 4,000 per month. Instead of working, I am forced to come and fight with the mechanic every day,” he added.

A few drivers who had got their meters recalibrated complained that they were not functioning properly or in some cases, continued to display the old rates.

J. Seshasayanam, general secretary, TN Auto Workers Federation, said, “Many auto drivers are being asked to pay Rs. 4,000 for new meters and forget about their old ones that cannot be repaired. The government should train more mechanics and should procure spare parts.”

A transport department official said they were employing more mechanics and were looking for people from other States as well. “Mechanics who are willing to offer their services are also welcome to contact regional transport offices,” he said.

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Printable version | Dec 5, 2021 6:35:21 PM |

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