NO more Argument for an Auto Ride!

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’.

The Norms

  • 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.

Auto Complain screenshot.jpg

A Sneak-peak

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.

Was it important – Like & Share! Not important – Criticise! Want to contribute, please do – Comment!

Reference links:

  1. http://www.delhi.gov.in/wps/wcm/connect/142d56804c577136b037f6ac8a5ce753/New+Pub.+Not.pdf?MOD=AJPERES&lmod=-369665456
  2. https://delhitrafficpolice.nic.in/public-interface/auto-rickshaw-taxi-fare-calculator/
  3. http://www.ndtv.com/delhi-news/delhi-auto-rickshaw-drivers-start-displaying-no-service-plates-667334
  4. https://kafila.org/2011/11/20/a-few-questions-about-a-few-thousand-new-auto-rickshaws-in-delhi-simon-harding/
  5. https://kafila.org/2010/04/02/the-truth-behind-the-strike/
  6. https://kafila.org/2010/03/24/auto-rickshaws-in-delhi-why-sheila-dikshit%E2%80%99s-comments-are-misguided/

Should you Kill your Child?

When in news we hear about any parent, who have miserably hurt their child for the latter’s notoriety, we disgust the act. We consider the accused as either a Psychopath or a victim in need of HELP. Would you Kill your child for their mistakes, misunderstanding or miscommunication? Do you justify horrible punishments when you see terribly notorious kids around you? Then, what happens to our conscience when India too is the parent of the child: KASHMIR?

We are a country that does not even hang a criminal, unless debated multiple times. Then why do some of us justify the barbarian invasion of forces on Kashmir? Why does not our soul stir on seeing the dreadful marks on the victims’ bodies, or the grave loss caused to them – some losing their vision, some their lives… because, they are separatists and intend to divide our ‘sacred mother nation’? Regardless, whether they really want it… and even if they do, why would they want it?

My fellow citizens claim that India is spending so much on Kashmir for its prosperity and sustenance, and for the continuous recovery of losses that the Kashmiris keep damaging. Strangely, no one is introspecting why would one damage their own homeland, their ancestral belonging? And, why would they want to KILL ANYONE without reasons?

Some also justify the unrest Kashmir, AFSPA and what the army is doing to Kashmir, attributing to the atrocious behaviour of  Kashmiri Muslims over Kashmiri Pandits during the insurgency, which finally led to the latter’s displacement in 1989. The facts state something totally different though. It was an extremists-led atrocity, which was indeed opposed by few Kashmiri Muslims, some of whom even provided shelter to the Kashmiri Pandits and few lost their lives while attempting to help. Hadn’t similar migration took place in 1947 too, with atrocities to the Kashmiri Muslims? None is justified, but why communities that have been staying in peace with each other from inception, would wake up one fine day with an unending motive to kill the other for no reason? Doesn’t that indicate to a conspiracy or hate gradually infused to gain political dominance? So, if two brothers fight among each other, to an extent of going to kill the other, what should the parents do – kill one? Or, find out the root cause and mediate!

Kashmiri Muslims demand to be separated – because we have already been separating them with our treatment. Being an eternal part of India, Kashmir is a family member to India, who’s rebel, protest, being influenced by outsiders and so forth has to be looked through the lens of how we would have treated the minuscule of the situation at our respective home. This movement is nothing more than a helpless child demanding to be separated from his parents because he feels insecure with them. He is feeling empathy fatigue with his own parents, and getting sympathy from everywhere else – some unconditional, some with vested interest against the parent (enemies of India), which the child can’t see now.

 The solution would not be this simple though, would need a lot of submission perhaps from India’s end, however, there has to be this holistic approach with intense efforts to make Kashmiris feel deeply associated with us. Recommending chilli-pepper bullets over pellets won’t fix the situation, nor would refusing UN to introspect the situation would hide the agony from the world. Considering the disappointed and agitated state of mind, perhaps it would be difficult to convince them for a peaceful talk. This is where we need a wise and sensitively-thought action plan, and representatives.

References of some personal accounts of Kashmiri Pandits:

  1. http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/spotlight/kashmirtheforgottenconflict/2011/07/201176134818984961.html
  2. http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Swaminomics/a-tale-of-two-ethnic-cleansings-in-kashmir/

Does India comply with Literacy Standards?

We choose representatives in the government to serve our country, not only to take it to the newer heights, but primarily to work on the hindrances for basic living standards. Education lays the foundation stone for the development of any country, which in turn contributes to the economy. Thus, educated citizens make the most viable resource for any government. The literacy rate of India is 74.04% (2011 Census report), however, the quality of education has been notably astonishing, with many on-paper literates not complying with the standards of their highest education (ASER Report 2014).

Education is a public good, hence should be a State subject: from school to universities. Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen has said that the development of a country is not marked by its GDP, but its capability. It becomes the government’s responsibility to work on education from pre-primary to the higher studies.

The main areas that have emerged as obstacles for India to establish a complete literate citizenry are as follows:

  1. Improper Infrastructure and lack of Incentives

Regardless of 69 years of independence, a proper infrastructure for education is not uniformly found in the entire country, especially at rural or remote areas: school building, utilities, seating etc.

For small villages, there is one Panchayat for five. The benefits that a Panchayat representative receives from the government, for encouraging education among the villagers, gets limited to the village the representative belongs to and a little around, or where the Panchayat itself is situated. Thus, the far away areas from the Panchayat get deprived of the government incentives and unaware of the government schemes.

Furthermore, the students, especially underprivileged or with no literate background find it hard to comprehend with the course content, which incurs the need for separate tuition classes, which not everyone can afford.

  1. Scarcity of Resources

Regardless of the number of schemes the government run or the free institutions government set up, education is never complete free. The families have to spend either in buying stationary, as admission or exam fee, tuition fee, travel, uniform etc. Many states run schemes like mid-day meal, free books and uniform, travel vouchers: which are some relief though, however still not a complete solution, especially for extreme BPL families.

  1. Lack of Interest

It has been observed that many parents do not send their kids to schools for they do not really find the need. Thus, they are broadly not connected to the outcomes of education. Thus, it becomes critically important for the government to create a vision for education among the parents. Equally important is to develop interest among the facilitators or teachers, so that do not limit their work to waged work.

  1. Early drop-outs

The number of students that get admitted in a school is phenomenally higher than the ones graduating from the school, or colleges. There have been significant drop-outs at Class 5, 8, 10 and 12, and so forth in colleges too. These drop outs have been observed both in rural as well as urban areas. In an interview with Child Development Project Officer (CPDO) of village Badgaon (Udaipur, Rajasthan): Harsha Sharma, she has exclaimed that a lot of villages do not even have secondary and senior secondary schools and colleges. Another reason has been marriages (especially for girls), need for the family to have another employed member, lost trust from the end-vision, and so forth.

  1. Skill development and professional courses

The only reason parents admit their children in schools and children seek to pursue education is for their vision to live a better life. The issue arises when this vision gets disillusioned with time, especially with the fair-play of interest versus money: not all areas would be of interest to the students, and not all interest areas would be money-making – this added with uncertainty of employment. Thus, burden of livelihood dominates over talent and interest and accounts to drop-outs, or unwillingness to join schools at the first place. Even worse are the additional trainings and equipments required in respective skills, and the cost attached to it. This accounts to the reason of scarcity as well as lack of plurality in the field of medicine, art and films, sports etc.: there may be enough will and talent, but lack of support for pursuance.

Private institutions with sole purpose of profit, on the other hand, put baits of fulfilling dreams to attract students, however, fail to provide quality education. Similar happens in terms of quality with budget institutions too, which leads income inequality at the end. An MBA from an IIM would lead to a six-figure salary or more and that from any less known institution, among whom are those who have pushed ends to graduate, would initially strive for a job, and then end up with peanuts.

  1. Absence of Analysis

Many schemes that generate from the government’s end do not reach to its supposed beneficiaries. Similarly schemes, syllabi and infrastructure cannot be universally right. Any best practice adopted from X not necessarily would be equally good for Y, in fact can be much worse. Thus, imposing certain courses or infrastructure and investing on it just because they have had great outcomes somewhere is not really a great idea. A continuous feedback and analysis is important to capture – from all the stakeholders; and more important is implementation and follow-up.

Above issues aside, quality of education is directly linked to the resources allocated. Thus, fund allocation plays a major role in contributing to all the above bullets. Harsha Sharma (CPDO, Badgaon) has circled budget as a key reason for leaving out on gaps.

Other than budget, clearly seen is the sharing of responsibility with civil society organizations, who if not can completely resolve the finance issue, can at least contribute for equipped human resources: to willfully facilitate, assess and coordinate. Although, the government has been helping NGOs in various ways, however, the aid so far is menial, in terms of funds as well as policies. For instance, the recent RTE policy inhibits the working of the budget schools that provide quality education at minimal rate in areas completely deprived of a quality education set-up by the government. Since they are budget schools they cannot be provide all the facilities, yet they emerge as hope out of nowhere.

Childhood is like a wet-clay that only proper education can shape. The apt period for nurturing great values is schooling. To develop fruitful attitude in the being to be, the focus has to be from the beginning: from understanding child psychology, providing proper learning, at home, school and surrounding, indentifying their vision and talent, counsel them the path to follow and supporting them throughout. The way government would contribute in the development of the well-being, the country would enjoy the outcome: good or bad, embarassing or proud.