The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Transport Authority (MMRTA) earlier this month approved the application of the Mumbai Rickshawmen's Union for conducting bench tests of electronic fare meters in taxis and auto-rickshaws, said officials of the Regional Transport Office (RTO)
The Transport Department of Maharashtra has allowed an auto-rickshaw union to certify recalibrated e-meters fitted in taxis and auto rickshaws plying in the Mumbai region.
The decision has not gone down well with consumer activists and transport experts who said it would lead to a conflict of interest.
Incidentally, the transport department is headed by Chief Minister Eknath Shinde who himself used to drive an auto rickshaw before he entered politics.
The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Transport Authority (MMRTA) earlier this month approved the application of the Mumbai Rickshawmen's Union for conducting bench tests of electronic fare meters in taxis and auto-rickshaws, said officials of the Regional Transport Office (RTO).
Bench test is a certification process of e-meters before they are re-fitted after recalibration. Recalibration is carried out whenever fares are revised.
During a bench test, it is checked if an e-meter is showing accurate fare for specific distances.
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"The auto-rickshaw union is an interested party, and therefore there will definitely be a conflict of interest. The certification should be always done by an independent body like VJTI (Veermata Jijabai Technological Institute, a government-run engineering college in Mumbai)," said A V Shenoy, a transport activist.
"It is like giving the keys of coffers to a thief," said another consumer activist, who did not wish to be named.
How could the government expect that auto rickshaw unions will protect passengers' interests, he asked.
As per a copy of the minutes of the MMRTA meeting which is in PTI's possession, the lesser-known rickshaw union would be setting up a bench test center in suburban Jogeshwari.
It had applied for permission to the Andheri RTO here on January 17, 2022.
On May 18, a motor vehicles inspector conducted inspection of the premises where the union intended to set up the center and submitted his report about fulfilment of terms and conditions by the union, the minutes said.
The Andheri RTO, in its remarks on the application, said that as many as 56,076 auto rickshaws and 6,420 taxis are registered with it, but there is no organization which has the permission to conduct meter tests under its jurisdiction which stretches from Bandra to Jogeshwari.
Along with the union, an e-meter manufacturing company had also applied for permission to run a bench test center.
But the MMRTA rejected its application stating that "being a manufacturer, instead of carrying out self-tests, it will be appropriate to carry them out through a third party."
Commenting on this, president of the consumer organisation Mumbai Grahak Panchayat Shirish Deshpande said, "If a meter manufacturer can be refused permission for being an interested party, the same principle should be applied to an auto rickshaw union which is more of an interested party."
The MMRTA earlier approved a fare hike for around 60,000 taxis and 4.6 lakh auto-rickshaws operating in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region from October 1.
The authority also asked taxi and rickshaw owners to get their e-meters recalibrated for the new fare before November 30.
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