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Tourist-friendly autos ride into oblivion

Autorickshaws sporting 'Incredible India' banners, launched as a tourist-friendly measure in 2009, have almost vanished in Tiruchi city.

Out of 26 such autorickshaws that were given permits to run with the inscription at the initiative of the then Secretary of Tamil Nadu Tourism and Culture Department, only two ply now — one at Central Bus Stand and the other in Srirangam.

Hundreds of autorickshaw drivers and operators were invited for a meeting at the Collectorate for a sensitisation programme on tapping tourism potential, and 120 of them evinced interest. Of them, 26 were chosen based on their crime-free status.

The idea was to make the autos the preferred choice of travel for foreign nationals touring Tiruchi. However, the euphoria lost momentum soon after.

The hotels did not pass on the numbers of these auto-drivers to visiting foreign nationals, and the authorities too failed to fulfil their promise of earmarking exclusive stands for them at the Railway Junction and bus stands.

The saving grace is that the two autodrivers who continue to operate the vehicles are determined to remain tourist-friendly. “Though we charge them as any other customers, we are considerate towards tourists, especially visitors from abroad," Venkatachalam (42), who operates his three-wheeler at the Central Bus Stand, said.

After a run for about eight years, the autos are wearing out.

“Since the Transport Department expressed inability to register a new auto with the same 'tourist-friendly' permit, we two have opted to operate the vehicles by carrying out maintenance though at times it turns costly,” Venkatachalam said.


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