: The Commuter Strikes Back?

Posted on August 14, 2010 in Specials

By Prateek Waghre:

If you are a ‘netizen’ you’ve probably heard of Meter Jam. For the uninformed — Meter Jam is a virtual (and I say that for a reason) movement against the ‘Auto’cracy and attitude of auto-wallahs and taxi drivers. The brainchild of people belonging to Mumbai’s Ad (Digital) Fraternity, the campaign quickly picked up steam and got some high profile media coverage. A cry against Mumbai’s drivers had echoes in other cities such as Bangalore and Delhi as well. It was celebrated (mourned?) on Thursday, August 12.

Meter Jam quickly went viral via, a Facebook Page and a Twitter Account. And, when ‘Likes’ for MeterJam started flooding my facebook newsfeed, I was very intrigued and curious about the outcome.

Every Story has 3 sides: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

The Good

Almost 40,000 (40,121 at the time of publishing this article) Likes on Facebook for a campaign that started on Aug 4th — to garner such support in little over a week is commendable no matter how you look at it.

The social media campaign seemed well thought out and dynamic. Within days of launching, had links directing people to sites where they could check out the bus routes, discussions among fans (who had their own transport) volunteering to do their bit to help Meter Jamming commuters. There was enough buzz around it to suggest that it might actually make a significant impact. Even on the D-day, there was plenty of positive sentiment about the movement on twitter.

By far, the best part is that The Common Man, ok — The average internet user — was stirred into action, united.

The Bad

A.L. Quadros, president of Bombay Taximen’s Union went on record saying ‘Even if 50,000 people boycott us on August 12, our business will not be affected. So, I wish them all the best.‘ This figure is for Bombay alone — And we thought 40,000 (countrywide) was a big number!

Even as supporters, hailed it as a brilliant movement, it had its set of detractors and skeptics. While monitoring tweets and the general MeterJam throughout the day I noticed many people expressing their disappointment at the fact that it seemed like business as usual for many commuters. Someone from Chennai even said — “After dealing with Chennai Auto drivers Mumbaikars are likely to go back and reward their own.” (Any from Chennai care to comment?)

The average office going citizens have enough to worry about without having the burden of boycotting their main mode of transport. And the monsoons had their say too — I hear it rained in Mumbai forcing many activists to jump into the waiting arms of autos/taxis.

For a movement that was touted to be the Revenge of Commuter, it seems like someone forgot to tell the auto/taxi guys. Most of the people I spoke to on the streets hadn’t heard of it till the evening news. As far as I knew, revenge was a dish best served… well… known!

A 1 day long protest is not enough to pinch the auto/taxi drivers. They need to hear the voice of the people, and not (ignore) the chatter of the tweeple.

The Ugly

The one disturbing aspect of this movement is our lack of understanding of the ferry-ers plight. Last time I checked, in Bangalore the daily ‘bhaada’ for an auto was Rs.300 (if some has an updated number for any city, please add it to the comments section). Add fuel costs to that and it isn’t exactly what I would call a high margin enterprise.

The Road Ahead?

While it is easy for us to raise questions and our eyebrows, atleast someone decided to do something! I wonder if phase 2 of Meter Jam is a web/mobile app that allows commuters to quickly look up offending drivers? Will there be follow up Meter Jams? Will it spread to other cities/towns? Is this a new chapter in citizen activism or just another case of slacktivism? Lets hope this campaign doesn’t fade into oblivion merely as an advertisement of the creative abilities of 3 people.

SideNote : 3 point programme for future Meter Jams

1) Walk up to an Auto/Taxi

2) Say “Meter Jam”

3) Walk away, If no altercation ensues — Repeat with different driver.

The writer is a correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz. He is also a blogger @ and