End this auto-cracy
There was a time when Mumbai's autorickshaws were the envy of other cities in the country. They were efficiently run, the drivers went strictly by the meter, and their unions, while taking care of the auto drivers, ensured that the paying commuter hardly ever suffered
Not anymore. Not a day passes without stories of how autorickshaw drivers have either fleeced commuters with fake tariff cards or of drivers refusing to ply short or even medium-range distances. And let’s not even bring the regular strikes into the discussion. The result is that every single autorickshaw commuter in Mumbai has begun to view these vehicles and their drivers as necessary evils.
What has caused this “trust deficit” between autorickshaw drivers and the paying public? While it will be difficult to put a finger one single reason, here are few that could help understand what is going wrong.
One, political opportunism from autorickshaw union boss Sharad Rao. Propped up venal politicians who view the 2 lakh-odd autorickshaw drivers and owners as a vote bank, Rao has been vociferously opposing the installation of electronic meters despite the government’s orders. He has, despite the fact that most drivers are on daily wages, forced them to go on indefinite strikes to prove his point.
Also, as a recent report in MiD DAY proved, each autorickshaw unit earns close to Rs 50,000 each month. So, Mr Rao’s claim that the owners are impoverished does not wash.
The transport department, meanwhile, has done precious little to apprise the public of the new tariff card. As a result, commuters are getting cheated every day. The autorickshaw unions, too, have supported these instances of daylight robbery by not attempting to stop such instances.
The end result? A suffering public and exactly the opposite of what any megacity situation should be.