‘4-in-All’ autorickshaws: Devarakonda’s lifeline and also its tragedy

Overloaded auto-rickshaws at Devarakonda in Nalgonda district.   | Photo Credit: Nagara Gopal

Thirtysix-year-old Kottam Mallesham, driver of the auto-rickshaw that collided head-on with a truck resulting in the death of nine persons, including his 30-year-old wife Chandrakala, and 56-year-old mother Peddamma, apart from himself, on Thursday, had transported scores of men and women from the village in the past 10 years.

“He would take bags of paddy, cotton and fertiliser, and passengers. He also offered free service if someone needed medical care, when ambulances took time to reach the tanda. It was a multi-purpose vehicle,” says Saidulu, showing the first house at Chinta Bavi’s entrance, and said it belonged to Mallesham’s extended family.

The middle seat of Mallesham’s auto-rickshaw resting along the house wall, like a small sofa upside down, was visible.

Saidulu, the neighbour, said the seat was removed to accommodate more people on the auto-rickshaw’s floor. In all, there were 20 people in it at the time of accident, and they had been commuting to Rangareddygudem village for paddy transplantation for more than a fortnight.

Twenty, for an auto-rickshaw that is painted as ‘4 in All’ before being passed by the Regional Transport Authority, is a huge number. But in Devarakonda, 20 passengers in the auto-rickshaws is a daily practice.

Interaction with several drivers of the ‘4 in All’ rickshaws tell that the vehicles are a success because the State RTC buses do not serve passengers in the many interior villages and tandas.

For instance, 20 residents of Chinta Bavi choose one of the seven ‘4 in all’ from the village to visit Devarakonda at ₹ 15 per head, rather than reach Polepally junction four kilometres away on foot and take the bus for almost the same charge per-head. And in cases of per-day hire, such as pick and drop agricultural workers to work sites drivers earn up to ₹ 1,500.

According to L. Venkata Narayana, a part-time driver in Chinta Bavi, the last time an RTC bus arrived in the village was in 1997, when there were no roads. “After the bus got stuck in deep mud and its driver left, I drove it back to the centre. Officials later rejected service to Chinta Bavi,” he said.

Mallesh, one of the auto-rickshaw drivers, who arrived with packed vehicles to Chinta Bavi to drop mourning residents, says there are at least 900 ‘4 in Alls’ in all of Devarakonda division. Besides driving the auto-rickshaw and a car, he collects instalments from ‘4 in All’ owners on behalf of finance companies in Nalgonda, from where the vehicles are purchased.

“ The ‘4 in All’ is a success because it gives good mileage – 28-30 kmpl and it is multi-purpose. Including the driver, three in the front, four on each side in the middle seat and luggage in the rear is allowed by police,” he says, adding, “No number helps when luck runs out.”

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Printable version | Feb 25, 2021 10:43:52 PM |

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