Monday, July 26, 2010

Is there an end to their demands?

Is there an end to their demands?
Ask Harried Commuters, Who Are Often Left High And Dry By Auto Drivers
Aarthi R | TNN

Bangalore: Auto drivers are in no mood to give up. They are determined that the government give in to their demand of a minimum fare of Rs 20. But will they stop at this? Most importantly, who will monitor their collection of correct fare?
The frustrating experiences of many commuters are telling examples of how drivers rule the roost in more ways than one. Rules of the Karnataka Motor Vehicles Act clearly stipulate that refusal to ply any customer is an offence. So is demanding oneand-a-half fare before 10 pm or after 6 am.
But the rules remain on paper only; the reality is just the opposite.
Janani S narrates her frequent frustrating experiences with auto drivers while trying to return home from M G Road. The normal meter fare to HRBR Layout, that’s roughly 8 km away, varies between Rs 60 and Rs 65. But there are times when drivers demand Rs 125 at 2 pm or even a whopping Rs 300 at 9 pm.
“Once, I was abandoned mid-way late at night when I refused to pay more than what was agreed upon at the prepaid counter. The driver first agreed but soon after, started to complain, and even abused me. He was drunk. Luckily, he stopped near Fraser Town police station where I had a relative,” she said.
This 19-year-old student, doing his MS abroad, was back home after a year. Two days ago, he and his friend almost got into a tiff with a driver who demanded one-and-a-half fare from Jal Vayu Vihar to Cox Town. The normal meter rate is Rs 30. “It was only 7.30 pm. The reason he gave was he will not get customers. What can I do about it? Why must the public suffer,” Karthik asked.
According to many commuters, hike in fuel price is just the latest excuse for auto drivers to demand more fare. There are times when minimum fares have been arbitrarily changed on the spot, citing metro rail work, traffic diversions, bad roads, rains and even short distance.
For instance, the regular fare from M G Road to Garuda Mall is bare minimum. But, most drivers who agree to ferry, demand a fixed Rs 30. Commuters to prominent destinations within the city’s central business district also suffer. The bad condition of Ibrahim Saheb Road, parallel to Comm e rc i a l Street, has no drivers coming in. The few who agree, have their own fares fixed for you.
Transport Commissioner Bhaskar Rao admitted that there have been increasing cases of such arbitrary demands. “True, it’s becoming rampant. There are plenty of such cases. Unfortunately, this is happening despite clear rules that state otherwise. There are 2-2.5 lakh autos plying in the city and we have just 56 inspectors. We are also trying out new ways to curtail this menace,” he said.
Bangalore is already ahead of many cities and states when it comes to minimum fare for autos. In Kerala, it’s still only Rs 10. Even in cosmopolitan Mumbai, that has alternate modes of public transport, has a minimum fare of Rs 14.
Monday’s meeting between auto driver unions and transport minister R Ashoka could be crucial in deciding the final fare for minimum distance.
The minister on Sunday admitted that citizens are unhappy with the proposal to hike minimum fare to Rs 17. “Increasing it any further will be a problem. No one will opt for autos then. A final decision will be taken on Monday.’’


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