Monday, September 23, 2013

'No bargain' auto-rickshaw

Autorickshaw drivers have a reputation for fleecing customers. However, in recent days fare-paying passengers in Chennai  notice a refreshing change in auto-drivers. I have heard people saying they have sighted autos fitted with fare-meter ; and some, adding they have even traveled, paying the metered fare.

Such refreshing change may be partly due to a  raise in fare by the authorities. More than this, we have had a spurt in community groups - such as Namma Auto, Auto Raja and  Book My Call Auto - that are engaged in mobilizing auto-drivers, to adopt decent behaviour and fair practices. Anubhav  Agarwal, a computer professional, teaming up with sociologist Aishwarya Raman, to create the special interest group - Auto Raja - says over 200 auto drivers have signed up with their group.

They represent just a drop in the bucket, taking into account the thousands of Chennai autorickshaws, over 70 percent of which are not owner-driven.  Anubhav concedes that their work and mission can't be expected appeal to a majority of drivers, who hire vehicles, paying  hefty retainer to benami  vehicle owners.

The challenge faced by special interest groups such as AutoRaja  is in mobilizing a critical mass of Chennai auto drivers for adopting fair practices. As for fare-paying passengers, the challenge is in sighting a  metered autorickshaw. The Times of India reported seeing an auto-driver displaying the official rate card on his  wind shield. Another vehicle, the newspaper said,   had a 'No Bargain' sticker, citing officially prescribed rates.