By Nicky Collins:
Anyone who has lived in Delhi understands the Auto Rickshaw woes that Delhiwalas have to endure. When it comes to looking for examples of Indian ingenuity, you really don’t have to look beyond the autowala who prowls in your gali. Every single time you make the unfortunate mistake of missing your bus, you can be assured that he will make a killing. The sheer resourcefulness and originality with which he manages to extract more money than what the trip is worth beats every contribution made by our scientific community. I don’t wish to paint all auto drivers with the same brush but I can say from my experience that every single time I have used an auto rickshaw, I have come out of it with an abject sense of betrayal, irritation and helplessness.
But all that is set to change if the Delhi government’s plan to refurbish the auto service in the city by introducing a dial-up pick and drop facility for auto rickshaws is approved, quite similar to the ones that run in several cities of Gujarat and Hyderebad. According to an article in the Hindu, the east Delhi Municipal Corporation is set to enter a partnership with a public charitable trust called Nirmal foundation to execute this plan. While the trust will be responsible for providing the services, the East Delhi Municipal Corporation will allocate space and coordinate with the traffic police and other departments.
On the face of it, this sounds like one of the best decisions on the part of the transport department, apart from removing the dreaded blueline buses. In fact, given that women’s safety has become a topic of concern, this service will definitely prove to be a boon. The auto rickshaws will be GPS-enabled, which hits two birds with a stone — apart from making it safe for women passengers, it provides protection against theft. The Delhi police will play a role in checking the backgrounds of the drivers. The vehicles as well as the drivers will also be a part of a central database. Seriously, it looks like it really can’t get any more secure than this!
The introduction of consistent meter based fares (excluding Rs.20 as convenience charges), which is also a part of the proposal, will benefit passengers, especially those like me who lack bargaining skills. Moreover, since you can simply make a call to get an auto to your location, it could mark the end of waiting for hours on the pavement to get an auto.
Of course, certain issues that plague the auto service in India like the need for time and distance based metering instead of exclusive distance based metering have still not been addressed. Like with every other government scheme, there are an awful lot of things that can go wrong and there is a good chance, heavens forbid, that we would end up with the ‘autogate scandal’. It could turn out to be a complete fiasco like the pink buses scheme before this. However, for a change, this time round, I have decided to place my bets on the government, at least as far as this scheme is concerned.