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Monday, May 20, 2013

Supreme Court fixes time limit for auto fee structure in Chennai ... and this auto driver at Trivandrum

The name Rajnikant sells and the characters that he plays – makes that profession popular… said a fan. Saw the final match of this IPL6 at Chepauk – between CSK and DD….

In my recent Kerala divyadesam trip, had this very pleasant experience in Thiruvananthapuram…. It was mid afternoon – I had wandered from our place of stay to the main entrance of Shri Ananthapadmanaba Swami temple  - saw this old person driving the auto – approached him for a drop… he spoke Tamil and  asked me  whether it was 1st lane or 2nd lane and told me that the two were slightly different places.  For a second I felt insecure ~ I told him that I know the place and perhaps the route [though some other road could perhaps lead to that place in a short cut]…… his name is Mr Basheer..

Those of us in Chennai know this too well…….. the auto-rickshaw drivers ask a very high price… as you near your destination and start telling him which road to take ~ one would mutter that this place is farther than what was indicated and would ask for that extra … to be paid……

This elderly gentleman was totally different…… first he asked for Rs.20/- for drop ……. I could not believe my ears…… it appeared too measly… never in Chennai would an auto ply even to the next road for that… we winded our way to my intended destination ~ upon reaching, this man got down and said – ‘Sir, this place is far nearer than what I thought ~ and hence pay me Rs.15/- only’…. I was struck by his honesty or whatever-else you could name it.. I offered him a small gift, which he took with great reluctance and I am happy in taking a photo of him and posting it here….. a small act ~ but you require a person great at heart to perform…. Long live his tribe…….

People of  Chennai, Tamilnadu and most other places are too well aware of auto … the ubiquitous three-wheeler – the commonest means of public transport… a great contraption that can virtually plough through the traffic and turn at any angle..  

One of my friends [hailing from another State] told that me that it is nightmarish haggling with the autowalah on landing at Chennai Central. In Chennai as also in most other places, it is a  male-dominated profession – though have seen a couple of women drivers too……… On that night when we came out of Chepauk stadium after the IPL match between CSK and DD, there were hundreds of autos lined up – and the fare to different destinations were astronomical.  Chennai is sort of disliked for its lawless autos; those autos who seldom use their fare meters.  Successive Govts have been able to regulate this sector.  Fares have been revised from time to time, but is exceptionally rare to find somebody who would turn the fare meter on and take that amount. In Ernakulam, from Railway Station to the place of stay, it was Rs.45/- and the automan promptly returned the balance Rs.5/- 

At places like Chennai Central the pre-paid system failed miserably and one can easily see people struggling to strike a decent deal. True that petrol prices keep spiralling up, but… still, the way the rates are fixed arbitrarily keeps one feeling that one is getting fleeced.  There sure is other side of the coin ~ autorickshaw drivers are the ones who come readily for help, especially for road-accident victims; at places they do help when suddenly the traffic goes bust. Many of them are uneducated and find it tough to run their families with whatever is earned…….. still there can be better way as shown in cities like Mumabi, Ernakulam, Bengaluru among others…..

Today’s TOI reports that the Supreme Court has given the Tamil Nadu government time till July 6 to fix a fare structure for autorickshaws, implement it and file a compliance report before the court. The 'final' opportunity, extending the ultimatum by two more months, was given by a bench comprising Justice R M Lodha and Justice Kurian Joseph, on a petition filed by Chennai-based advocate S V Ramamurthy, on May 6.

While acceding to the pleas of Tamil Nadu's additional advocate general for more time to frame a fare structure and implement it, the bench had said: "In the interest of justice, we are inclined to grant further time of two months to Tamil Nadu to finally consider fixing of new fares for autorickshaws." Holding the chief secretary accountable for the compliance of the order, the judges further said: "The chief secretary of Tamil Nadu shall file an affidavit that the order dated December 3, 2012 has been complied with." However, the order was not implemented till May 6, when the present order was passed. "I produced the front page of The Times of India dated September 4 (the day TOI launched its campaign to bring back the autorickshaw meter) to highlight the present day position of autorickshaw fares in Tamil Nadu," Ramamurthy said.

Baasha is a 1995  super hit movie directed by Suresh Krishna, starring Rajinikanth, Nagma, and Raghuvaran. Rajni plays the role of an auto driver and the title song ‘naan autokaran, autokaran’….-music of Deva was a great hit. 

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
20th May 2013.

1 comment:

  1. It is not just about that one person you met in Trivandrum. Everywhere in Kerala (except for Cochin) you will find the auto drivers being fair. In 2005 when I was in Calicut, the minimum fare for the auto was Rs.8.50 and one would find a big bag full of 50p coins hanging in the auto so that the auto driver can make sure that he returns the exact change :).