When the Regional Transport Office (RTO) instructed all auto rickshaws to switch to electronic meters, it stirred a debate as to whether they could be tamperproof or not. It turns out that there is a possibility that these meters can be tinkered with.
Wrong Reading: Auto unions allege the electronic meters can be tampered with, and their installation and maintenance is expensive. Pic/Mohan Patil
The transport authority introduced the new system to prevent fleecing of passengers. But city-based auto rickshaw drivers and members of Pune city Auto Rickshaw Federation claim that electronic meters are not a solution to commuters' woes as they can easily be meddled with.
"The RTO, from last year, made it compulsory for all auto rickshaws to install electronic meters. But these meters can be easily tampered with and passengers can be fooled into shelling out more money," said Bappu Bhave, city president of Pune city Auto Rickshaw Federation.
Auto rickshaw unions in the city recently went to the transport office in Mumbai and submitted an official letter stating how these electronic meters are not foolproof. They also questioned why this system was being imposed on them.
"For a new auto rickshaw, after installing the electronic meter, the vehicle has to be taken to Alandi RTO for meter checking and only after their approval, we can start our business," said Mahesh Bhalerao, an auto rickshaw driver and member of the organisation.
"There is a socket in the machine through which the fare rates can be changed. In many rickshaws, this socket is deliberately placed outside the meter box and drivers mess with the readings taking help from local garage mechanics.
Also, one can change the time settings in the meter via this socket. These changes in setting can also display night charge readings to trick the customer," revealed Bhalerao.
"Our demand is that the RTO should give us foolproof tamper-free electronic meters before making it compulsory for vehicles to pass the meter test.
Till then, they should approve the old mechanical meters during the examination, as they too are efficient. If our demands are not approved, we plan to approach the High Court and get justice for auto rickshaw drivers," said Bhave.
Speaking to mid-day, Pune Deputy Regional Transport Officer, Anil Valiv, said, "The random checking of electronic meters is conducted by our inspectors, and we are planning a special drive for this in the coming week. If there are faults in the electronic meters, they can be resolved, as passengers will suffer because of the tampering issue."
In Pune, there are five authorised dealers of electronic meters - Standard, Global, Sansui, Super and Dighe, from whom the meters are installed.
The average installation cost of an electronic meter is around R3,000. The meter comes without a warranty period and drivers allege that there are no authorised service centres.
Pune RTO has 46,000 auto rickshaws registered with them and so far, more than 30,000 have installed electronic meters.
Average installation cost of an electronic meter
Number of authorised dealers of electronic meters
Number of auto rickshaws registered with the RTO
For any complaints related to auto rickshaws, passengers can contact the Pune Regional Transport Office on 020-26051414. They can also get in touch with the Pune Traffic Police on 020-26122000.