Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Electronic meters in autos are not tamper proof

Electronic meters in autos are not tamper proof
The Hindu

They are as vulnerable as mechanical meters, says consumer activist

# Department of Legal Metrology has not taken action against unscrupulous drivers
# About 25 lakh people use the one lakh autorickshaws in the city every day

K.V. Subramanya and

Swathi Shivanand

Bangalore: Contrary to the general belief, electronic meters in autorickshaws can be tampered with.

"The pulse transmitting mechanism can be manipulated," said a senior official from the Department of Legal Metrology.

According to Somasekhar V.K., Managing Trustee of Grahak Shakti, electronic meters are as vulnerable as mechanical meters.

Every Bangalorean has a story to say about being gypped by autorickshaw drivers but few bother to complain to authorities.

Estimates reckon some 25 lakh people use the one lakh autorickshaws in the city to commute.


Those who know they have been robbed blind by the drivers have additional complaint that the Department of Legal Metrology has not taken stringent action against the unscrupulous drivers.

Autorickshaw drivers get the meter doctored to ensure that it practically gallops.

The minimum fare is Rs. 12 for two km but in most cases the meter comes to life much before the is distance travelled.

Officially, the Department claims it has made the system foolproof by stamping a seal on the gears and pulse mechanism.

In fact, it stamped 69,000 of 75,000 autorickshaws last year. But some auto drivers cheerfully admit to tampering with the meters. To which department sources said: "We are also developing our own technologies to make meters tamper proof."

Seal? No problem

Following large-scale complaints, three years ago the Transport Department made it mandatory that all the new autorickshaws should be fitted with digital fare meters.

But, the drivers themselves sometimes say that even the digital meters are being doctored.


Metrology Department inspectors have a target of checking at least 300 autorickshaws a month and submit a report.

The Department has one independent mobile unit comprising eight inspectors, which goes to places where a large number of autorickshaws ply, such as railway stations and bus stands. First-time offenders are penalised up to Rs. 2,000. Repeat offenders are booked and their autorickshaw meters seized.

They can be fined and/or imprisoned by a Magistrate.

But the million-dollar question is: can the Department, with limited staff, keep a tab on the nearly one lakh autorickshaws in the city?

One way of finding out if the meter is tampered with is that if the driver rotates the meter twice, you are being cheated.

"This enables the meter to move fast, thereby making the commuters pay more," said a consumer activist.


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