An issue that needs everyone’s attention.

Back in the year 1998, I was a 10th grade student and I had a routine following every morning. Get ready by 8 am, pop in some upma or an idli for breakfast, not to forget the calcium needed – a large glass of milk. Rush to school with those heavy backpacks which contained the whole year’s syllabus. Getting into the crowded city bus with the bags that weighed close to quarter ton - of course with some struggle. Ensure to keep the uniform still in its clean and pressed status. Making sure the polished shoes did not get dirty. Then the straight 7 hours of interesting and boring lectures. (You definitely have this mix wherever you study). At the end of the day, cross the hurdles again to get back home the same way as in the morning.

While heading back from school one fine evening it was late and I could not wait for a city bus. So I got into an auto to reach home in time. It was the first time I traveled in the auto alone. You can imagine my state of mind, a young girl taking an auto ride at 6 in the evening. I tried hard not to think of anything evil or bad but damn this human instinct, every breath I took was shaky and every tick of my watch was a hammering on my head.

Why should one be so scared to travel in the auto rickshaw? This is nothing new to any commuter in big cities of India. It has been a massive problem from over a decade now, but do we see real action in place? There are a few initiatives taken on this account but it really does not bother the rikshawalas who fall into the category of problem creators.

I would like to narrate a few instances which have inspired me to write this article.

I was with my sister in the heart of the city. We were totally tired walking up and down the roads with heavy traffic, so we decided to hire a rickshaw to commute a short distance that would not cost more than a minimum fare (Then the min fare was 7 rupees). We were glad that the driver agreed to take us to the asked destination, but the surprise came by when I saw the meter showing a good 35 rupees when we reached. My sister and me we engrossed in a conversation and did not pay attention to the meter jump. When questioned, the driver started shouting in an abusive language. After a 10 min heated argument, finally we had to give up as we did not have any proof of the distance covered. (It was barely a 2 km stretch that we traveled but ended up paying 35 Rupees). – Day time robbery.

Next experience with the rude driver: On a rainy Sunday afternoon it was difficult for me to get back home after a relaxing movie in one of the famous multiplex in the city. So I decided to take an auto back home. I fairly had an idea of the fare as I had traveled the same route a few days before. But when I asked the driver right in front of the Mall I was shocked to hear the rate he asked for the trip, a decent 200 rupees where it just costs a little over hundred. I gave a blank look at him and immediately his reaction was to start a lecture about the IT professionals who earn so much but think 10 times to pay the rickshaw fellows…. Blah blah blah… he continued. To my luck I carried my umbrella that day. I walked a distance of about a kilometer and hired another auto who charged me just what the meter display showed. – Fooling the knowns.
My uncle and aunt once came to our city to visit us during their vacation time. Also with them came their 4 year old daughter Trisha. Since it was their first visit they did not know the route and also did not know the distance between the city bus stand and our house. The driver had asked them that he would charge a double on the meter as it was the wee hours in the morning. My uncle had accepted it as it was under the policy.But the driver had a clue that this couple was visiting this place for the first time from the conversation between Trisha and aunty. He took advantage of this situation and you would not believe that the trip cost them nearly 300 rupees where the normal fare is not more than 45 rupees.( Even with double rate it should not cost over 90 rupees. I wonder whether he took them for a real ride in the early morning.) – Taking undue advantage of the innocent.
It’s not only me who has faced issues with such irritating auto drivers but a lot of my friends and relatives have much more instances to iterate.

When I stop an auto driver and ask a trip to “XYZ” location he either does not stop or he claims a ransom amount which is way above the normal fare. Most of the times I wait for about 20 min to get an auto to my destination, meantime not less than 10 rikshawalas would have declined to take me to where I need to go. Have you faced a similar problem? I am sure you would have at one time or the other.

There are a few exceptional drivers who do not belong to this group. They make you reach your destination in a comfortable way. But the tagline for auto drivers does remain branded with the corrupt ones alone.

Its better we start revolting against these corrupt drivers in a silent way. Stop using rickshaw if you have the energy and time to take the bus. It would be the best way to retaliate against them. This way you also contribute a little towards environment saving.

- I pledge to use auto rickshaw only when it is required.
Ashwini Nagaraja

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