Rickshaw unions unhappy with tamper-proof electronic meters

Apr 25, 2012, 08:35 IST | Sukirt D Gumaste

Technical experts from a committee appointed by the State Transport Authority to check and pass electronic meters claim that autorickshaw unions and drivers in the city are opposing the decision to make electronic meters compulsory, because the gadget is 'impossible to tamper with'

The microchip system is rigged to show an error message on the display if anyone attempts to manipulate the meter and it cannot be repaired locally, but needs to be sent back to the manufacturers.

The State Transport Authority appointed the Mechanical Department of MIT College to conduct tests of electronic meters and give a passing certificate to rickshaw drivers. Similar to passing certificate and PUC, it is mandatory for autorickshaw drivers to collect the document for electronic meters from MIT every year.

Foolproof: A microchip in electronic meters shows an error message if tampered with, after which it cannot be repaired locally, but needs to be sent back to the manufacturer

Dr BV Joshi, head of department said that a battery of tests have been conducted on the electronic meters.

“Rickshaw unions are claiming that the meter can be affected by dust or rain, but we have done an all-weather-test. It is almost impossible to tamper with the meter as a special chip fitted in the meter shows ‘error’ or ‘tamper’ if anyone interferes with it. In this case, the respective rickshaw driver cannot repair that meter at local shops, but has to approach the manufacturer. Electronic meters are successfully functioning in Bangalore, Hyderabad and Mumbai,” Joshi said.

Before the decision to make electronic meters mandatory, officials of the State Transport Authority and representatives of commuters conducted a secret drive in Thane, Pune and Mumbai. It was found during the drive that a huge proportion of tampering occurred during the night.

According to an RTO official, the decision to make electronic meters mandatory was taken only after proper tests and analysis.

Suryakant Pathak, president of Pune Grahak Manch, said, “We are receiving many complaints regularly about excessive fare. Around 70 to 80 per cent rickshaw meters are tampered. We have complained to RTO officials and the traffic police, but they are not serious about taking action. Electronic meters can work well because they are not easy to tamper with, and only the manufacturer and technical experts can make changes to them.”

Auto rickshaw unions say that the reasons they are opposing mandatory electronic meters are not because of them being tamper-proof.

“There are many flaws in the electronic meter. At a speed of five to 10 km per hour, electronic meters automatically go on waiting mode, which can disturb the whole fare structure. We are also against meter tampering and insist that the RTO and traffic police take action. Only a fine is not sufficient, but autorickshaws with tampered meters should be seized. Electronic meters are not the solution. Serious action is the solution,” Bapu Bhave, president of Rickshaw Federation said.

Bone of contention
“Mechanical meters have a gear system, which can be manipulated easily. Local mechanics charge Rs 250 for repairs and to make changes in the meter. The new electronic meter has a microchip system and only the manufacturer can make changes or repairs. It is not easy to tamper with the electronic meter. Europe and the US have adopted this model and many taxi drivers in Mumbai use it without any complaints,” said Vishwas Sahastrabudhe, activist of Sajag Nagrik Manch.

Rickshaw unions say
>> Electronic meter can be affected by dust and rain
>> Electronic meters cost between Rs 2,000 and Rs 4,000
>> Owners of old rickshaws have to buy new battery for Rs 2,000
>> State Government should give complete subsidy for installation
>> Electronic meter can also be easily tampered with
>> Doubtful about getting after-sale service from manufacturer  

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