Sunday, February 17, 2008

Always asking for MORE

Always asking for MORE
After the latest hike in fares, one would have expected the city’s autorickshaw drivers to go about their business in an orderly manner. Nothing of the sort has happened, say Prashanth G N and Amit S Upadhye

Despite the recent fare hike, autorickshaw drivers refuse to mend their ways. The minimum auto fare and rates per km have been hiked to Rs 14 and Rs 7, respectively, keeping in view the interests of auto drivers. Yet, some of them fleece passengers, asking abnormally high fares for short distances. And in broad daylight, let alone late evening. Why do they still refuse to go where they are asked?
Manjunath of Adarsha Auto Drivers and Taxi Union explains: “We don’t agree with what the drivers do. Many drivers ask for extra fare the moment they assess that the passenger is welloff — by looking at their dress and getup. Then they cite one-way traffic problems which cause them to take a longer route. They also say they may not get passengers at the destination, which means that they would have to go back empty to busy points to get passengers again.”
Auto drivers ask for double fare (Rs 30) from, say, MG Road to Infantry Road or Commercial Street; Rs 20 from Ananda Rao Circle to Cubbon Park;
Rs 20 from MG Road to Vidhana Soudha; Rs 20 from MG Road to Garuda Mall. “In all these areas, auto drivers think people have a lot of money. So they demand high fares. There are also many one-ways here. In other areas, it is the problem of passengers — will they get a return passenger? If they think they won’t, they charge high. And many charge high because they know people are dependent on autos, that they desperately want to to reach office or home. And many drivers know that passengers won’t complain to the police (only in rare cases) or that police wouldn’t act against them. All this gives them confidence to run the autos on their terms,” Manjunath explained.
Refusal to go to certain areas is another major problem. Puttaraju, a driver for 30 years, said auto drivers calculate whether they will get a passenger at the other end; if they think they won’t, drivers refuse. “If there are one-ways, areas that don’t have offices, areas far away from bus stands and railway stations, auto drivers won’t come.”
Drivers also don’t come because they restrict themselves to “their own areas’’ and would not travel to “areas of other auto drivers’’ — a Peenya driver doesn’t come to Indiranagar or a Koramangala driver doesn’t come to Ramamurthynagar. “They form clusters and they won’t go out of those clusters,’’ Puttaraju said.
Traffic, too, keeps auto drivers away. “If there’s heavy traffic, the waiting time is too much and the returns for waiting are not attractive. Auto drivers are also getting sick of traffic —they get exhausted,” he said.
Ankshita, a frequent auto passenger from Bashweshwarnagar says: “Every time I try to get an auto, the driver asks for Rs 10-20 more citing lack of passengers from the disembarking area. But that is not our problem.”
Akshata, who works on MG Road, says it is an ordeal to get to Infantry Road, Commercial Street or Garuda Mall. “All these routes require only the minimum fare, but drivers ask for Rs 20 or Rs 30. Why should I pay that in broad daylight? All these are business areas. While some say they are not interested because of elaborate one-ways, some don’t bother talking to us. They are rude because they know they’ll get other passengers.”
Prakash, a banking professional who travels from Vijayanagar to MG Road, talks about refusals. “The moment you say ‘Vidhana Soudha or MG Road via Seshadri Road’, no one comes, especially in the office hours. They say the traffic is too heavy, that waiting time would be high and they lose customers. Some even tell me that they are sick and tired of driving in heavy traffic.
“But what has the public got to do with this? They run autos not to make money for themselves, but as a public transport. In effect, it turns out to be a private transport — because they want to go where they prefer to go and not where we prefer to go. And they go where they say they get money.”
Rajesh, a hotelier on Church Street, explains: “Here some auto drivers simply refuse to go anywhere till late evening. They operate as a gang. They know just one trip at night will fetch them Rs 250 and if they do two, they can manage Rs 500. They know their customers and the areas where they live. Ask them to come to any other place, and they refuse. If they agree, they ask for four times the minimum.”
The same passengers said they face the problem of defective meters. Either the meters are old or they are fixed. Ankshita says: “I know it costs Rs 60 exactly from Basaveshwaranagar to MG Road. But how does the meter show Rs 66, Rs 68, Rs 70 and sometimes Rs 72? We have to fight with the driver.” Prakash faces the same problem. “From Vijayanagar, it costs Rs 56. But why does the meter show anything from Rs 60 to Rs 66 and even Rs 70? Either the meter is not good or has been fixed. We hope all autos will have digital meters.”
Manjunath says unions cannot act against erring drivers because they don’t have the legal right to do so. “We are educating them to behave properly. Wherever possible we try to resolve issues. But police have to act first. If the police are tough, we will help them. There are about 3 lakh auto drivers in the city. We want to correct them, but how is possible on the ground?”
Union members said they even thought of setting up a squad on their own. Will the squad members have to give up their work and time to check erring drivers? Who will finance the squad’s operation? “When the police, with massive personnel and facilities, are unable to check auto drivers, what can we small unions do? Even then, we take calls from passengers and I direct them to the DCP concerned. I get hundreds of complaints every day on my phone. I sympathize with the passengers. But unless police act tough on an everyday basis, we can’t do much,” says Manjunath.
Auto drivers suggest a serious law to control erring drivers. The law should go beyond mere fine and include imprisonment and seizing of vehicles.
They say RTO officials must make good behaviour a condition before issuing licences and permits to drivers and owners.
The city police is planning to cancel the permit of repeat offenders. “We will soon form a joint team, involving RTO and traffic officials. The team will cover major areas of city and keep a constant watch on erring drivers,’’ said a senior police officer.
“Autorickshaw drivers should change their attitude. Or else, they have no right to run as a public transport,’’ the officer added.
RTO authorities say the calibration of meters should be completed by March 31 — the meters should show Rs 14 as minimum. Drivers are now producing cards to passengers to clarify fares. Digital meters have to be fixed by June. Time has been extended for the latter as most drivers complain about the high cost of meters. Authorities say if the meters are not fixed by the deadline, permits would be cancelled.


At Wednesday, April 2, 2008 at 3:06:00 PM GMT+5:30, Blogger Unknown said...

I think this is one of the greatest problem we face now specially as auto is the only mode of "public" transport in some short routes. I think there should be auto refusal complaint booths, like there are taxi refusal complin booths in Kolkata and places. They need to be real strict with these auto drivers as the kind of behaviour we face from them is absolutely horrible and unacceptable. I keep hearing people complaining that bangalore is horrible because of transportation problem and I have started to believe they are true. Specially when it seems that the people of Bangalore may it be politicians, police or the common people originating from this place are in no way bothered with there "beloved" city's image.


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