'First fix e-meters, then install them'

Commuters and transport experts say that electronic meters are not tamper-proof; want state to frame guidelines before installing them in 1 lakh autos in the island city

If you thought that installing electronic meters in autos was the solution to thwarting fleecing drivers, well think again. Transport experts and commuter groups have time and again displayed that e-meters are just as susceptible to tampering as their mechanical cousins.

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At a recently held meeting with the state transport department and RTOs, the commuter organisations questioned the basis on which the black and yellow taxis have been fitted with electronic meters. They further claimed that these cabbies are using tampered meters to fleece the passengers.

Transport experts and commuter organisations want the state government to frame guidelines, making it mandatory for the manufacturers to follow them, before e-meters are installed in over a lakh auto rickshaws in the city.

Organisation speaks
"Although a particular manufacturer may be technically qualified, there are no specific guidelines to which it has to adhere to. There is an urgent need to define non-technical specifications before asking them to install e-meters in autos," said Shirish Deshpande, consumer activist, Mumbai Grahak Panchayat.

At present, there are nearly 15 manufacturers producing e-meters. According to sources, the quality of production varies from one manufacturer to another. "The government body should ensure that manufacturers produce quality e-meters in large numbers, give warranty, after sales services and ensure that it shows an error in case the driver tries to tamper with it," said a transport expert, requesting anonymity.

Rubbishing the allegations levelled by the consumer activists that government lacks control over the meter manufacturers, a senior transport official said, "We only select recognised and technically qualified e-meter manufacturers. Besides, every producer has to follow certain rules while manufacturing these meters."

Taximen speak
According to General Secretary of Mumbai Taximens Union, A L Quadros, the first lot of e-meters was installed in the old Padmini taxis way back in 1997. "Presently, there is no quality check performed on provided e-meters. There is an urgent need to make these meters tamper-proof," added Quadros.

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