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City autos riding on meters? In your dreams

Image result for trichy meter auto
A little over two months ago, when some trade unions announced that autorickshaws in the city would affix digital meters to ensure nominal fare for the rides, many felt relieved. Since it was meant to combat stiff competition from mobile application-based autorickshaws, many took it seriously. However, with the monsoon in full flow and the public increasingly relying on autorickshaws, there has not been an iota of change on the ground.
Travellers haggling with autorickshaw drivers for exorbitant fares is a regular sight on the roads. This happens when other cities in the state have either got a fixed tariff or are at least committed to regulating fares by conducting regular meetings with stakeholders.

According to statistics available with the state transport department, Trichy district has 13,002 autorickshaws operational as in March, of which around 65-70 per cent run in the city limits and outskirts such as Samayapuram and Thiruverumbur. With the city being located centrally, attracting scores of people on any given day from at least eight districts in the region, absence of fixed tariff for auto fare has been leaving the visitors equally peeved as the local people.
After the intrusion of app-based auto service (Ola) in the city in October last year, a section of trade unions had agreed to install digital meters in their vehicles as the online transportation service swept the market due to the low-cost rides. However, even months after the unions gave the assurance, a majority of autos were found plying without the digital meter. Explaining the delay, auto drivers claimed that the condition of the city roads was so pathetic that they could not afford to utilise the revenue received from ferrying passengers for maintaining their vehicles.
"Though the city is smaller in area, we have to shell out money once in three months to overhaul the three-wheeler thanks to the road condition," R Mohamed Anwar, an auto driver in KK Nagar said. With as many as six major trade unions for auto drivers in the city, Centre of Indian Trade Union (CITU), the largest among them, had in August reiterated its resolve to affix digital meters in the fleets affiliated to it. However, of the total 3,500 autos affiliated to the union, only around 1,000 autos were said to have fixed meters, of which many are not used. "We are educating the auto drivers to fix digital meters and also collect only Rs 25 for a ride up to 3 km and beyond the distance Rs 10 for each km. Compared to the autos that have not installed meters, autos installed with meters are preferred by the public and such vehicles receive more pickups per day," R Sampath, district secretary, CITU told TOI.
Even as cities like Chennai and Coimbatore have floated a fixed tariff structure for auto fare, Trichy lags in the commitment to ensure appropriate fare for the commuters. Trade unions attributed this to the absence of support from transport department for making all auto drivers fall in line and install meters in their autos. Transport department officials here were not available for comment.


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