New fares, tough steps discipline auto drivers

NEW DELHI APRIL 15. The recent revision of auto fares and their strict implementation through impounding of vehicles of drivers who refuse to run by electronic meters or overcharge seems to have brought a semblance of discipline to the plying of three-wheeler scooter rickshaws across the Capital.

As an immediate fall-out of these inter-related steps, most of the auto drivers have started plying on the electronic fare meters. To this end the efforts of the Delhi Transport Minister, Ajay Maken, have started bearing fruit in this election year.

Though initially the auto drivers had opposed compulsory installation of electronic meters and resisted the impounding of vehicles not complying with the norms by resorting to a series of strikes, things now appear to have fallen into place.

The new fares are seen as reasonable by most auto drivers. "Sahib, hamare hisaab se to yeh rate ab theek hai. Kisi ko theek nahin bhi lagta hoga, par hamari rozi-roti to ab theek chal rahi hai'' (Sir, for me these rates are fine. Some may not agree, but I am now able to sustain a proper livelihood),'' said a rather satisfied auto driver, Anurag Singh.

Pointing out that as per the revised fares the trip from ITO to All India Radio now fetches him Rs 20, he said earlier too this was what the auto drivers were charging, but then it was considered fleecing as they refused to go by the meter which would have got them only Rs 12 or 13 over the same distance.

Finally, the foremost reason why very few auto drivers now refuse to go by the meters is that they fear that their vehicles may be impounded should the commuter complain either to the Transport Department, the Delhi Traffic Police or the Helpline at 9604-400-400.

``Apne pet par kaun laat maarna chahta hai? Gaadi band karwane se to achcha hai ki zyaada chala kar zyaada kamaon,'' (Who wants to endanger his livelihood? It is better to earn more by working more than to get ones vehicle impounded,'' said another driver, Harish Prasad.

Another factor which has made most of the auto drivers amiable has been the easy availability of CNG at the filling stations. For getting a gas refill they now have to wait between 10 minutes and one hour only. For the auto drivers -- who were earlier forced to wait for up to four hours on an average for getting their tanks filled with CNG -- the reduction in filling time has come as a major relief.

Also the economy in running the autos which give an average of over 40 km to a kg of gas makes operations profitable. "The only problem here is that the cylinders have a capacity of 3.5 kg but the operators at the CNG filling station do not give more than 2.5 kg or at the most 3 kg at a time since they fear that at full pressure the cylinders run the risk of exploding in the summer heat.''

But still with gas refills worth around Rs 40 each, the auto drivers are able to run around 100 km. And at Rs 8 per downing and Rs 3.5 per kilometre they earn Rs 400 on it. "Most of the times a single refill proves sufficient. But sometimes when you get a number of long-distance passengers, you have to go for a second one which thankfully does not take much of time now''.

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