The other day, someone posted on my Fb wall about his conversation with an Auto-driver, wherein the latter expressed his dissatisfaction for the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in Delhi; and that he regrets his choice of promoting AAP. (Auto-drivers in 2013 have played a key-role in promoting AAP in Delhi, by carrying their posters for free or at cheap rates). Freedom of choice is a fundamental right – and it should be respected, of whoever it may be. However, the wall-post forced me to ask another random auto-driver the reason for the same. He responded:
“Kya kaanoon banadiya hai, jisko dekho call kar deta hai or hamara challan karvaa deta hai” (What law they have made? Whoever can call and complain against us, and court then penalizes us with a challan). He added that, ‘it is no more an Aam Aadmi’s (common man) party, but a party that is also filling its pocket from our hard-earned money’.
- It has been a rule in Delhi that no auto-driver should impose unreasonable charges to the passengers, but run by meter only.
- The day charges and the night charges are different.
Day: Downing charge is Rs 25 for initial 2 km; further which, Rs 8 for each kilometer.
Night: Downing charge is Rs 32 and the total fare is 25% above the day fare (11pm-5am).
- Waiting charge: Rs 30 per hour, charge subjected to a minimum of 15min of wait.
Luggage: Rs 7.50 for luggage heavier or bigger than shopping bags or small suitcases.
- Effective since September 2014, no auto-driver can deny going to any place or have favorites for locations, be it a day or night – until they have ‘On-Duty’ board displayed at front. Respecting their wish to be able to go home without inviting a prosecution, they can pick passengers towards their home location only when they display an Off-Duty board with location mentioned on it. The amount of challan for refusal is Rs 2000.
- If passengers find any auto-driver not running by meter or refusing to go without the ‘Off-Duty’ displayed, the passengers can report to the transport helpline: +91-11-42-400-400. This number is mandatory to be put on the auto as well.
- The Helpline representative would ask for the vehicle no., origin & destination city and passenger’s credentials (Name, address and mobile no.). S/he would also speak to the auto-driver in valid requests scenarios to either convince him or at least to hear his part as well, and avoid being biased.
- If the auto-driver is yet stubborn on overcharging, refusal, or running on road without fixing the meter, the helpline registers a complaint, and a reference of the complaint is sent to the passengers’ mobile no. (see image). The passengers after few days get a confirmation call from Traffic line, for successfully procession of the challan.
The increase in the minimum fare from Rs 19 to Rs 25 (since May 4, 2013) and the per kilometre fare from Rs 6.5 to Rs 8 (Rs 4.5 per km in 2010) was followed by a strike due to an increase in CNG price (many auto-drivers did not support the strike as increased fare would have only increased the auto-rentals and not directly benefited them; but they were absent from the road to avoid the violence of hooligans). In 1997, the Supreme Court had stopped issuing of new permits concerning the polluted smokes that the old-autos emitted. This resulted in many autos being bought from black market financiers at a higher cost of up to Rs 6.5 lakh. Many took loans at higher interest rates from the financiers, due to the absence of a bank credit. Overcharging was one way for repaying the loan, afford the CNG conversion that followed, handling the police and feeding their families.
On Nov 19, 2010 SC judges KS Radhakrishnan and CK Prasad allowed permits to 45,000 new auto rickshaws, which dropped black-market permit price from Rs 6.5 lakhs to Rs 2.5 lakhs. In 2015, SC allowed Delhi government to have 1 lakh autos. The government had also tied up with 3 banks (PNB, IndusInd Bank & State Bank Bikaner and Jaipur) for facilitation of loans for auto-drivers – to save them from high interest rates charged by the local financiers.
Many commuters (auto) have had experiences when most auto-drivers either claim that the meter is damaged or simply refuse to go if the passenger denies commuting on their higher prices; drivers even speed-off on mention of locations they don’t wish to go towards. This becomes troublesome especially for patients, senior citizens and pregnant women, who neither can afford a cab nor bear the hassles of the DTC buses. Others opt for autos to save their time and end-up paying more than what the meter would estimate. The overcharge could have been justified few years ago due to the burdening loan, CNG conversion and less fare. However, with the revision of the fare, issuance of more auto permits, availability of bank credit and where each kilometre doesn’t cost more than Re 1.50 in CNG, and let’s add two or three rupees more on each kilometre for maintenance, rent, road tax, bribe and miscellaneous – is it really fare for an auto driver to charge over Rs 8 for a kilometre?
If one wants to tip the auto-driver, it should be by-choice, not imposed or demanded. This regulation on Delhi auto-rickshaws eases commuting as compared to the neighbouring cities: Noida or Gurgaon, and especially the places in Delhi that the auto-wallas interpret as ‘Out-of-the-world’.
However, immense money, time and mental calm could have been saved, if we would have had equally efficient DTC buses and no potholed roads that annoy auto-drivers more.
On waiting for a bus for long at Anand Lok, when I called the DTC Helpline they replied: ‘Aati hi Hogi…’ (must be on its way). Moreover, many buses indeed don’t stop at all the bus stops. Hope some light be bestowed on that too.
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