Auto ID cards – a good measure

Newspaper reports in the recent months have been claiming about measures introduced by the city police to regulate the excesses of auto rickshaw drivers. Encouraged by this, I decided to use an auto rickshaw in stead of the usual prepaid taxi when i needed to go to the railway station last week. I was quite pleased about the idea of all the money I would save if it turned out to be a pleasant and argument-free experience .

So my husband goes to find an auto and brings this rickshaw to the door. The man readily agrees to go to the railway station and says nothing until I have loaded all my stuff and hopped in and moved away from the house. Then he says “one and half madam”. I am shocked and I ask “why, it is only 1 in the afternoon not after 9 p.m.!” and his response: “Illa madam, vaapas savari sigalla” (won’t get anyone to use the auto from the station).

Now this was a revelation to me! In any town, city, village, hamlet, if one were to specify a place where there would be demand for an auto it has to be the main railway station. But apparently in Bangalore it is not. Wonder what people do to reach their destinations after they get off the train. So I express my outrage to him and tell him not to use such an idiotic excuse.

And then he clarifies: “Illa madam, naanu ide area vaapas barbeku. Savari sigilla andare khali barbeku.” (I need to come back to this same area. If there is none coming this side, I have to come back empty!) So he wants to pass all his professional risk on to his passengers – he seemed to imply that I had a choice of either paying up one and half times the meter ( which was already manipulated enough to another one and half of normal fare) or I could get down at the station and hunt around for someone who would take the auto back to our starting point – what a wonderful prospect!

Of course the information display enforced by the police came in handy and I threatened to complain to the police by using the details on the card and he shut up but not before expressing his annoyance by taking some dangerous turns which might have cost me my life.

Thiis is not the only trick they have – they are very versatile and creative. Yesterday my friend boarded an auto at Koramangala water tank to come to IIM. The auto driver tells her that he needs a gas refill at a station nearby (“ille pakkadalli”) and takes her all the way to Domlur and tries to load the cost of that travel for his personal purpose ( a cool Rs. 20) to her fare as he has already started the meter as soon as she got in. Again it was the photo and license details card that saved the day – an argument and a threat to complain to the police finally worked and he reduced Rs 20 off the fare and went away mumbling.

The police have enforced a very good system in place but it is up to us to ensure the efficiency of the measure by not taking the easier way out but by insisting that they do not take us “for a ride” literally.. I think we should stop taking the attitude “It is just Rs. 10 extra” “I can afford it” etc… This can make it difficult for others as the autos have begun to expect it as a matter of right. Their attempts to fleece us in spite if the card that is displayed right behind their backs and right under the nose of the passenger is a clear pointer that they think it is only a formality and they may still be able to get away with arm twisting. We can only bring about changes in such behavior by actively participating in the drive and compelling them to comply.

The prepaid autos at the station are another delight to the heart. There is a queue which moves quickly and you are assured of a safe auto ride to your destination at the right price. There is no board announcing it as you get out of the station and at least 10 cititaxi owners and other auto drivers will accost you with enquiries on where you want to go but please ignore them and make your way to the pre-paid auto counters which are on the same side where the autos would drop you when you arrive. Convenient and hassle free. Try it out.

With a little active co-operation from the general public, our auto rickshaw woes may soon end.

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