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Exclusive News Opinion

The curious case of Chennai auto driver

Chennai, Aug 5 () : If there is one thing almost every visitor to Chennai has to encounter apart from the constant traffic jam is the fleecing of the auto drivers.

Even after the introduction of the meter system where the minimum fare has been fixed at Rs. 25 for the first 1.8 kms and Rs. 12 for every additional km thereon, the auto drivers persist on a fixed rate, hence putting off the passenger.

It is time that the auto drivers realise that the customers are educated today and would prefer a transparent deal rather than a fictional number.

One such instance happened to me yesterday. I was travelling from Thiruvanmiyur to Egmore railway station. There were 6 autos available at the auto stand and when I said I needed to go to Egmore, the driver asked aloud as to who wanted to go. Only 2 of the drivers showed willingness and when enquired if he would operate the meter, his answer was “No”. He felt it would not work out “effective” and demanded Rs. 250 as a fixed fare.

I was even more surprised when he did not negotiate or ask me how much I was willing to pay when I started moving from the stand. Wondering how people are ready to let go business just like that, I walked a further 50 meters and checked with an auto there. He said he would operate the meter but asked for Rs. 20 in addition to the charges that reflected, even though I offered Rs. 200 flat for the distance.

Feeling better at having found a person who was willing to operate the meter, I hopped on and reached the destination taking the beach road which is a little longer than the regular route but practical during peak hours such as the one I was travelling in. The final meter charges came up to Rs.  192 and I happily paid Rs. 210 to the driver. The traffic was very light and we did not get blocked at any of the signals for more than a minute.

The driver who drove me by operating the meter earned Rs. 210 while the one who asked Rs. 250 went back to his gossip session with his other mates.  This is in total contrast to the auto drivers in Mumbai who do not get time to even breathe as they keep getting passengers every time they stop their vehicle. The only reason being, they operate the meter and do not bargain on fixed rates. It helps them earn their livelihood and they also enjoy the patronage of the passengers even when the fare gets revised by a rupee.

Hope the Chennai auto drivers learn that it is beneficial for them if they operate the meter so that they can get more passengers rather than sitting among friends and wondering why they are not getting revenue.

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