Saturday, September 29, 2007

Running on full throttle

Running on full throttle
Nina C George
A typically rogue autowallah is first and foremost a deviant from the community. He abhors all kinds of regulation, even refusing to join his community's attempts at organising itself.

Rogue auto drivers of the City might be the black sheep of their community, but they don't wear their deviation on their person. They cleverly camouflage their rogueness, ensuring that the entire community bears the cross for their black deeds.

Like nighthawks, these rogue autorickshaw drivers mostly set about when the day has just dawned or the dusk is about to set in. They haunt the busiest areas of the City — it could be railway stations or bus stands or the central business districts — and charge the hapless customer twice or thrice the actual fare and end up making at least five times more money than the rest of their ilk. And all this, as the men in uniform haplessly throw up their greased hands.

Recognise the rogue
A typically rogue autowallah is first and foremost a deviant from the community. He abhors all kinds of regulation, even refusing to join his community's attempts at organising itself. “There are close to one and a half lakh autorickshaws plying in the City. Only 20,000 are unionised, the rest of them don't want to belong to any union because they fear that their activities will be monitored by the union,” B S Narayana Murthy, secretary of Adarsha Autorickshaw Driver’s Union told Metrolife.

The unionised automen sport a union badge and are bound by the rules of not charging excess, display their card in the right place and will even stand out in their politeness, claimed Narayana Murthy. At first sight, there might be nothing much to give away a rogue autowallah. But scratch the surface, the deviance shows. The uniform may not be complete.

The card may be missing or even if it is there, it could be a worn out photocopy. The rogue driver is never at legitimate auto-stands. He accosts commuters, offers to take them for a fat, fixed fare between Rs 300 and Rs 400. And all this may be happening under the very nose of a policeman who would be looking the other way.
The unorganised autowallahs make the most moolah early morning between 5:30 am and 7:30 am and at night between 8 pm and 11 pm. They move about in Kalasipalyam, Jayanagar IV Block, on Race Course Road near the JD(S) office, Majestic bus stand, railway stations, Hebbal and Nagawara. Besides they are almost a permanent fixture at the airport.

To ply in these areas, these automen have to bribe the jurisdictional police. In Jayanagar, each rogue driver reportedly pays the duty policeman Rs 200 every week; it's Rs 500 at the airport, Rs 300 at Kalasipalyam and Rs 300 on Race Course Road.

Most of these autorickshaws have their meters tampered. A meter for a four-stroke engine auto is fit on to one with a two-stroke engine. If this is done, then the meters simply double up the fare. “Even in brand new autos, digital meters are replaced with old tampered ones,” said an autorickshaw driver.

No regulation
The attempts of the City police to regulate autorickshaws by introducing the mandatory display card system for the drivers, has fallen flat. The addresses on most display cards are fake. The only reliable thing could be the police serial number and the driving license number.

There could be larger reasons why these rogue drivers continue to dog the City roads. According to Narayana Murthy, "Auto driving licenses are issued without checking the antecedents of applicants. All you need to do is to go through the driving tests for formality's sake and bribe about Rs 2,000 to have a licence in hand. Most autodrivers in the City wouldn't even have a driving licence and readily pay the fine amount to get off."

A top police officer in the City says he is aware of the corruption among the cops that man the roads. “We put our police officers on rotation basis in certain places where we suspect they indulge in corrupt practices. We hope this will regulate corruption.” Some sub-inspectors have been appointed as nodal officers for public transport commuters and they are responsible for identifying areas where unorganised public transport like autorickshaws operate and where refusal to go for hire is high.


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