Tuesday, October 13, 2009

No concession for autorickshaws: Minister

No concession for autorickshaws: Minister

Transport minister insists they will have to switch to new colours in a year and have digital meters, says measures will benefit passengers

Shwetha S. Bangalore

Transport minister R Ashok has ruled out any concessions for auto drivers, who went on a strike on Monday to protest against the government's decision to have autorickshaws painted yellow and green and make digital meters compulsory for them.
"We will not give in to their demands," Ashok said. "We have given them (autorickshaw drivers) a year's time to have their vehicles painted green and yellow," he said. "We are getting hundreds of complaints about auto-drivers fleecing passengers. We are making digital meters compulsory to ensure that passengers are not harassed. We will give the drivers Rs1,000 subsidy to instal the meters," he said.
Transport commissioner Bhaskar Rao said auto drivers have enough time to have their vehicles painted in the new colour scheme. "We are insisting on digital meters in the interest of the passengers. Every day, we receive complaints about tampered meters in autos," he said.
Rao said the government will make smart cards mandatory for autos. "These cards will help us track down auto-drivers who misbehave with passengers or commit any offence."
Rao said the state cannot impose the stringent Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) against the striking auto drivers, since they were from lower-middle class families.
According to the traffic expert MN Sreehari, the government was right in demanding digital meters in all autos. "Autos are a means of public transport. They have to follow some rules and regulations," he said. "The government's decision to standardise meters and the colour scheme is aimed at ensuring safety and security of the people," he said.
Auto drivers said that they went on a strike to highlight the problems they were facing everyday. "We went on a strike to make the government and the transport department wake up for our problems and gives us solutions to the problems," an auto driver said.
The drivers said the government should not insist on making digital meters and smart cards compulsory for auto-rickshaws. The government should come up with a special scheme to encourage their children's education, they said.


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