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A Young Woman Shares Why The Daily Hassle With Delhi Autowallahs Is Just ‘Unfair’

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By RD Swati:

The other day, someone posted on my FB wall about his conversation with an auto-driver, wherein the latter expressed his dissatisfaction with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in Delhi. He also shared that he regrets his choice of promoting AAP. (auto-drivers in 2013 played a key role in promoting AAP in Delhi, by carrying their posters for free or at cheap rates). Freedom of choice is a fundamental right – and it should be respected, whosever it may be. However, the wall-post forced me to ask another random auto-driver the reason for the same. He responded, “Kya kaanoon bana diya hai, jisko dekho call kar deta hai or hamara challan karvaa deta hai” (How unfair are the laws that they have made! Whoever can call and complain against us, and the court then penalises us with a challan). He added, “It is no more an Aam Aadmi’s (common man) party, but a party that is also filling its pocket from our hard-earned money”.

The Norms

1. It has been a rule in Delhi that no auto-driver should charge the passengers unreasonably and run by meter only.

2. The day charges and the night charges are different.
During the day: the downing charge for the initial 2 kilometres is Rs 25 ; and then, Rs 8 for each kilometre.
At night: the downing charge is Rs 32 and the total fare is 25% more than the day fare (11 pm – 5 am).

3. The waiting charge is Rs 30 per hour (subject to a minimum of 15 minutes stay).
Luggage: Rs 7.50 is levied for luggage that is heavier or bigger than shopping bags or small suitcases.

4. Ever since September 2014, no auto-driver can deny going to any place or have favourites for locations, be it during the day or at night – until they have an ‘on-duty’ board displayed at the front. Respecting their wish to be able to go home without inviting a prosecution, they are allowed to pick passengers on their way home only when they display an ‘off-duty’ board with location mentioned on it. The amount of challan for refusal is Rs 2000.

5. If passengers find any auto-driver not running by the meter or refusing to go without the ‘off-duty’ board, the passengers can report to the transport helpline: +91-11-42-400-400. It is mandatory for the autos to display this number as well.

6. The helpline representative would ask for the vehicle no., origin and destination location and passenger’s credentials (name, address and mobile no.). The passenger would also have to speak to the auto-driver to validate requests (either trying to convince him or at least hear his part and not be biased).

7. If the auto-driver is still being stubborn about overcharging, refusing, or running without fixing the meter, the helpline registers a complaint, and a reference to the complaint is sent to the passengers’ mobile no. The passenger after a few days, gets a confirmation call from the traffic line, for having processed the challan successfully.

A Sneak-Peak

The increase in the minimum fare from Rs 20 to Rs 25 (since May 2013) and the per kilometre fare from Rs 6.5 to Rs 8 (Rs 4.5 per km in 2010) was followed by a strike due to an increase in CNG price (many auto drivers did not support the strike as increased fare would have only increased the auto-rentals, not benefitting them so much; but they were absent from the road to avoid the violence of the hooligans).

In 1997, the Supreme Court had stopped issuing new permits for they were concerned about the pollution caused by the smoke emitted by autos. This resulted in many autos being bought from the black market financiers at a higher cost. Many took loans at higher interest rates from the financiers, due to the absence of bank credit. Overcharging was one way for repaying the loan, afford the CNG conversion that followed, handling the police and feeding their families.

On November 19, 2010, SC judges allowed permits to 45,000 new auto rickshaws, which dropped black-market permit price. In 2014, SC allowed Delhi government to have 1.5 lakh autos. The government had also tied up with 3 banks (PNB, Indusind Bank & State Bank Bikaner and Jaipur) for facilitation of loans for auto-drivers – to save them from high-interest rates charged by the local financiers.

Many commuters (auto) have had experiences of auto-drivers either claiming that the meter is damaged or simply refusing to go if the passengers deny commuting with the higher prices; drivers even speed off on the mention of locations they don’t wish to go towards. This becomes troublesome especially for those patients, senior citizens and pregnant women, who neither can afford a cab nor bear the hassles of a DTC bus. Others opt for autos to save their time, and end up paying more than what the meter would estimate. The overcharge could have been justified a few years ago due to the burdening loan and CNG conversion. However, with the revision of fare, allowance of more permits, availability of bank credit, is it really fair for an auto driver to charge over Rs 8 for a kilometre? We should also keep in mind that each kilometre doesn’t cost more than Rs 1.50 in CNG, even with the additional two or three rupees on each kilometre for maintenance, rent, road tax, bribes and miscellaneous.

If one wants to tip the auto-driver, it should be by choice and not something that is imposed or demanded. This regulation on Delhi auto-rickshaws makes commuting a little more convenient – at least better than the neighbouring cities – Noida or Gurgaon.

However, immense money, time and mental calm would have been saved if we had an equally efficient bus service and no potholed roads (that annoy auto-drivers more). On waiting for a bus for long at Anand Lok, when I had once called the helpline (011-41-400-400), the associate had replied saying,”aati hi Hogi…” (must be on its way).

Many buses indeed don’t stop at all the bus stops. I hope that some light be bestowed on that too.


Image source: Ronit Bhattacharjee/ FlickR
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