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Mumbai meter dealers' fight with RTO delays auto, taxi fare hike

While the transport dept has agreed to fork out Rs 500 for the recalibration of each e-meter, dealers say it is far too little, considering the number of parties involved and the amount of effort that will go into the task

Commuters who have been dreading the approaching R2 hike in auto and taxi fares can breathe easy — for a few days, that is. A skirmish of sorts between the state transport department and dealers responsible for recalibrating the electronic meters looks likely to buy you a few more days, with the existing fares.

The state transport department had made ambitious plans to start the work of recalibrating e-meters on Sunday. However, unhappiness over the rates fixed for the job seems to have disgruntled two vital stakeholders — e-meter dealers and manufacturers.

Their dissatisfaction looks likely to wreak havoc with the schedule set for the task, and delay the process of recalibrating e-meters for the Rs 2 fare hike. When mid-day spoke to some authorised dealers and repair workshops in the city, most of them expressed dissatisfaction about the poor rates promised to them for the
e-meter recalibration work. The state transport department, after a meeting with the e-meter manufacturers and dealers, had decided upon a payment of Rs 500 for each e-meter, refusing to budge from it.

“The rates approved by the government will only pinch our pockets. We will not earn more than R50 profit from it,” said a meter repairer, who has a shop in Bhandup.

Another meter workshop owner and dealer said that after factoring in salaries paid to workers, rent and travel expenses, the sum doled out for replacing the chips in the e-meters is extremely paltry.

B Jamal, a meter dealer, displays a new chip with revised fares programmed into it, which will be installed in e-meters before the fare hike. Pic/Datta Kumbhar
B Jamal, a meter dealer, displays a new chip with revised fares programmed into it, which will be installed in e-meters before the fare hike. Pic/Datta Kumbhar

Sources said that out of Rs 500 paid for recalibration, a majority of the amount – between Rs 200-Rs 400 depending on the brand of e-meter – will go to the manufacturer. The rest will be divided between the certified testing institutes, transporters, and the dealers repairing them.

“For each e-meter, the certified testing institutes have increased their rates to as much as Rs 150, while the transporters charge Rs 50. So there is no question of us earning profits,” said another meter dealer from Goregaon. They want the rate to be raised to at least Rs 700 per e-meter.

Work in progress
Meanwhile, in the past two days, the meter manufacturers have supplied more than 8,000 chips. “There are no problems from our end, and we have already supplied around 4,000 chips,” said Rajesh Chinta from Super Meters, which is charging Rs 250 for each e-meter.

The official representative for Sansui e-meters also confirmed that work of supplying program cards is underway.

“We have provided program cards that would transfer the new tariff, using handheld machines,” said a representative, who claimed to have supplied enough for 8,000 autos and taxis.

Once the e-meter manufacturers pass on the chips and software programs to the authorised dealers and repair shops, they will replace the existing chips. The meter dealers, however, fear that the transport department and auto and taxi unions will blame them for the delay.

“We will meet the authorities on this issue,” said a meter dealer, who said that working on e-meters is sure to hurt his business.

Meanwhile, RTOs want to resolve the monetary issue as soon as possible, in order to stick to the near-impossible 45-day deadline. Schedules put up at all the city’s RTOs say the process was slated to begin on August 17.

“No one has officially come forward with this issue, but we will have to resolve it. As of now, the rate of Rs 500 for recalibration of each e-meter remains,” said S Sahastrab-udhe, transport commissioner (additional charge).

There are 12 e-meter manufacturers who have around 125 authorised dealers working under them to change the e-meters with new fares. At least 6,000 e-meters were to be recalibrated in a day, by these dealers.

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