Until a few years ago, autorickshaw drivers in the city would refuse to charge passengers as per the fare meters and police and transport authorities had to conduct massive drives and undertake campaigns to make them change their mindset.
However, with the arrival of appbased taxi services, especially Ola and Uber, autorickshaw drivers are now insisting that the government provide them with GPS-attached fare meters to restore the confidence among the public that autorickshaws do not overcharge.
The state government had issued an order on August 25, 2013, stating that such electronic meters fitted with Global Position System (GPS) device would be provided by August 2014. However, nearly three years on, the autorickshaw driver say they neither received meters nor any communication from the government.
According to officials, the autorickshaw drivers cannot collect exorbitant fares, as the new meters would not only be GPS-enabled, but also remain tamper-proof. Significantly, the equipment could store details like the distance travelled during a trip and the destination where the passenger was dropped. Officials say the system would also help trace the exact location of the autorickshaws at any given point of time. With all these features, including installation of panic buttons, the proposed GPS-fitted meters would ensure the safety and security of passenger. However, the proposal remains in the limbo.
Speaking to DT Next , S Balabubramaniam, General Secretary, Autos and Taxi Owners Association, South Chennai, affiliated to CITU, said “The government is still showing apathy in expediting the process to provide the new meters. We have also filed cases following the delay in the meter distribution process,” he said and added that after the arrival of private cab services, the income for auto drivers has taken a big hit. “It would be a great relief to the auto drivers if the government provided the new meters.”
“Most customers do not have faith in us and there is a general perception that we are collecting extra fare. The government should immediately provide GPS-fitted electronic fare,” said R Mani, a member of North Chennai Autorickshaw Owners Association.
What the GO says
According to the GO, dated August 25, 2013, the electronic digital fare meters with printer and GPS will be provided free of cost to the contract carriage autorickshaws plying in Chennai city on the date of publication of the appended Notification in Tamil Nadu Government Gazette and the Government will bear the total cost of approximately Rs.80.49 crores.
Competition between cabs and autos
Ever since cab services like Uber and OLA emerged in the city, there has been an intense competition between autorickshaws and cabs. According to commuters, the fact remains that cabs seem to be a better option, as they collect minimum fare, compared to autorickshaws. “Autorickshaw and taxi drivers are losing the competitive race against huge multinational companies like Uber and OLA, even as they pay more to get the official permits,” alleged A Kamalanathan, an auto driver near Chennai Central Station.
What officials say
“Issuing GPS to auto rickshaws is under process. We will inform at the right time to the drivers of autorickshaws,” said Jayakumar, Assistant Secretary, Transport department. Asked about checking unpermitted autos, the official said, “We have instructed all the Regional Transport Officials (RTOs) to monitor this practice and we along with police personnel are monitoring permits and overcharge.
- Over 1,00,000 autorickshaws ply on roads
- A total of 74,635 autorickshaws operate in the city with proper permits
- Nearly 2,000 OLA-attached autorickshaws have electronic meters with GPS
- 3,500 is the fee for renewal of permits every five years
- Around 150 autos are being registered in 12 RTOs per month in the city