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Thursday, November 1, 2012

FOR A FARE RIDE ‘Auto drivers make 40% more but service still poor’


Somit Sen TNN 


Mumbai: Consumer activists pointed out on Thursday that auto drivers have got a monthly increment of Rs 6,200—or a 40% hike—after the recent increase in fares, but the services offered are still below standard. The activists will petition the government with the previous and present income figures and seek withdrawal of hikes if the service quality does not improve. 
    Auto union leaders, though, said the fare hike was justified keeping in mind the cost of living index and rise in repair and maintenance cost of vehicles. 
    Shirish Deshpande of Mumbai Grahak Panchayat said drivers have got a huge hike. "First, most autos still run on the old mechanical meters and passengers are being fleeced with excess fares daily. 
Second, refusals continue outside most stations. The attitude of drivers has also not improved. Under such circumstances, is it justified to give them a raise of over Rs 6,000 per month?" 
    He further said the productive distance travelled by each auto was 80km a day. "In the past, when the fare was Rs 7 per km, a driver earned around Rs 560 a day. This means, he earned Rs 14,000 to Rs 15,000 per 

month (in 26 working days). This is a decent income," he said. But now after the fare hike from Rs 7 per km to Rs 9.87 per km—about Rs 3 per km—the drivers have got a nearly 40% increment." 
    Auto drivers had got an interim hike of Re 1 in March this year. After the recent hike in October, the minimum fare was increased from Rs 12 to Rs 15 (for 1.5km) and for every subsequent km from Rs 7 to Rs 9.87. Deshpande said, "If you calculate the earnings of drivers after the hike, they come to nearly Rs 21,000 per month. There is an increment of at least Rs 6,000." 
    Activist Varsha Raut said, "We have come across several complaints of drivers fleecing passengers in Mumbai." 
    A senior RTO official said in the past two weeks, they had issued showcause notices to 800 taxi drivers and over 200 auto drivers for various offences. 

    A union leader said most drivers led a hand-to-mouth existence. "The hike will help them save for medical expenses etc," he said and added that activists should focus on getting illegal autos off the road instead.



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