Inflation Impact: Commuting charges pinch the common man

A middle-class commuter travelling 5 km to work is spending more now

Updated - June 03, 2022 06:59 pm IST

Published - June 03, 2022 06:23 pm IST - CHENNAI

Autorickshaw drivers are demanding 30%-40% more than what they charged before the COVID-19 lockdown.

Autorickshaw drivers are demanding 30%-40% more than what they charged before the COVID-19 lockdown.

“Oru 20 rupees mela pottu kudunga, petrol/diesel rate yellam eriduchu [pay ₹20 above the meter charge, as petrol and diesel rates have shot up]”. This is a refrain that every commuter hears before boarding an autorickshaw or a cab in Chennai.

A middle-class commuter taking these modes of transport to travel 5 km to work was earlier spending ₹7,000 a month. Now, he is spending an additional ₹2,500. Commuters from across Chennai whom The Hindu spoke to said they have been spending an average of ₹2,500 to ₹6,000 more (depending on the distance) in the last four months for inter-city commutes.

Parents who send their children to school by autorickshaws said the drivers had informed them of an increase of ₹1,500 a month for a child (based on the location).

Even as the Tamil Nadu government has begun the process of revising autorickshaw fares through the State Transport Authority, commuters are forced to pay a hefty sum as autorickshaw drivers are demanding 30%-40% more than what they charged before the COVID-19 lockdown. Commuters said taking cabs in Chennai is more expensive than travelling to a neighbouring district. Taxi aggregators, including Ola and Uber, have also put up the fares, citing the increase in fuel prices.

S. Kamala, who has a house on Mudichur Road, Tambaram, said that last week she booked a cab from Duraiswamy Subway, T. Nagar, after shopping. She ended up paying ₹800 for an auto. “For a mini-cab, the cost was ₹980 and the charge for Prime Play was ₹1,200. A third AC train ticket from Chennai to Coimbatore would cost less,” she said.

Consumer activist T. Sadagopan said drivers now insisted on passengers paying only in cash.

Commuters said the State had failed to regulate taxi-aggregators as well as autorickshaws. In Tamil Nadu, the autorickshaw fares were revised by the government in August 2013, with several provisions that have not been implemented so far. Commuters pointed out that every time the government announces that autorickshaw drivers should not charge over and above a certain amount, the rule is followed for a few days and then forgotten.

In the last two months, even share-autos plying across Chennai have increased the fares by ₹5, though not for all destinations. “We have done it for a few destinations. But our minimum fare remains the same [₹10],” a share-auto driver said. Pointing out to people boarding share-autos opposite the T. Nagar Bus Terminus, he said, ”We don’t want to burden them with higher fares. People going from T. Nagar to, say, Tirumangalam will have to spend ₹5 more. The fares remain the same for most of the other destinations.” For share-auto, the volume of business is helping. With commuters feeling that autorickshaw drivers are fleecing them, share-autos are stepping in to use the opportunity.

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