How Auto Raja provides relief to Chennai's hassled commuters
There is no city in India that I have been to where you see auto rickshaw drivers flouting the law with impunity. But Auto raja with its reasonable fares might prove to be a novel solution
When you think of Chennai, you think, thanks to association and to the coverage in media, of Chennai Super Kings and of N Srinivasan.
Before the IPL mess hit the headlines, the immediate connection with Chennai was of auto-rickshaws and their lawlessness. There is no city in India that I have been to where you see auto rickshaw drivers flouting the law with impunity.
Two years ago, after a trip to Chennai, I wrote this piece “Ms Jayalalithaa, get my mother a rickshaw, please (l).” As expected, Ms Jayalalithaa did nothing and things went from bad to worse.
But help is at hand – from two sources.
The first is a Supreme Court directive giving the Tamil Nadu Government a deadline of 6 July by which the fare structure has to be fixed and implemented. The court has also asked for a compliance report to be filed by that day.
The second source of help is from a social venture, Auto Raja. “Our vision is to provide a hassle-free, enhanced service to the commuter; ensure dignified living of the driver; improve the efficiency, quality and affordability of public transportation in the city we operate in,” AutoRaja says in about themselves.
The vision says a lot – especially when they take into account the role of the driver, recognising that he (or she; there are a few women auto rickshaw drivers in Chennai) is central to a solution.
The social venture is just that. Considering that only the government can fix tariffs, all their ‘rates’ have been arrived at through crowd-sourcing, as their Facebook page says.
“FAQ 1: Where can I find AutoRaja's tariffs?
A: AutoRaja promises a bargain-free ride. We ensure our drivers do not overcharge. The following figures have been arrived upon through crowdsourcing.
If you’re a commuter travelling just 2 KM in an AutoRaja autorickshaw, the cost you’d incur would be Rs 30 only.
If you’re a commuter travelling more than 2 KM, you’d incur a cost of Rs 35 for the first 2 KM, and around Rs 12 for every subsequent KM.”
AutoRaja is well thought-through. This is what they had said a month before they launched their effort. “It cannot be denied either that most of the city loves to dislike drivers; even those that are on a short visit to the city are warned of the all-true fleecing nature of drivers. …Refusals to take you to destinations of your choice constitute more fact than fiction. What’s worse? – those tamper-proof electronic meters that stare at you, almost mockingly, throughout your ruddy auto-rickshaw ride! The long minutes of bargaining, of putting up with the driver’s odd and at times rude behaviour, present all too frustrating a circumstance to care for auto-rickshaws or drivers anymore. If only the fare meters worked…If only things were different…”
Thanks to the Supreme Court and the AutoRaja effort, things will be, hopefully, different.
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