Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Where are all the pre-paid autorickshaw counters gone? Time to bring them back

Where are all the pre-paid autorickshaw counters gone? Time to bring them back

Aparajita Ray



There are only two places in the city from where commuters can expect to ride a pre-paid auto: The City Railway Station, and the Cantonment Railway Station. The railways introduced the counters for the benefit of passengers unfamiliar with the city. Some malls too have such counters run by private agencies, but these are few and far between.
Till two years ago, the city had other spots too from where pre-paid autos could be hired. However, those have since stopped functioning. Additional commissioner of police (traffic), Praveen Sood said that the autorickshaw drivers who ply from the pre-paid counters were forced to charge only the fare indicated on the bill issued at the counter, and so were not pleased with the arrangement.
There are pre-paid counters run by private agencies outside select city malls. At Forum Mall and on MG Road, for instance, there are counters that allow commuters to pay Rs1, and issue a token with the amount to be paid when the commuter reaches his destination. These agencies take a share in profits generated, but even these counters are not particularly popular with autorickshaw drivers.
Krishnaiah, an auto driver, said, "The pre-paid counters do not allow two-stroke vehicles in their parking lots, only four-stroke ones are allowed, so we can't be part of it anyway." Another auto driver, Raju, had a different reason for his reluctance to join the pre-paid counter lines: "We can only charge the fare indicated on the slip given to us at the commuter, but after travelling all that way, we often have to return with no passengers, and incur a loss."
Each time a change in the auto fares is effected, the pre-paid counters are updated. "When I got out of the railway station, five drivers gathered and demanded between Rs350 and Rs400. I went to the counter for pre-paid autos. There, I was given a slip for Rs126," said Nikhil, who had just arrived from Rajasthan.

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