Journalist, likes people-watching, no-DSLR shutterbug, revels in the absurd and the nutty, loves books, blogs, travel, food, and tries not to be a cantankerous customer.

Sravanthi C

Of autos, meters and fare play

| Updated on October 07, 2013

‘Tender exact fare’ seems to be a good directive to take seriously in these changing times.

Like many others, I too did not believe things would improve when the TN government recently revised auto fares and announced that autos would have to start charging only by meter. I don’t remember when I last travelled by an autorickshaw where the meter was used. So a few weeks ago, when I left office at about 9.15 one night and rejected/was rejected by a string of autowallahs, I didn’t expect that the seventh or eighth auto that came my way would quote a fair price.

“How much?” I asked the driver warily. “I’ll put on the meter,” he said. I was astounded but got in. The ride home cost me Rs 80. (Usually, they ask for Rs 150, though I stand my ground and end up paying a little less.)

A few days later, I had to take an auto again and was resigned to the routine round of bargaining. A friend told me she had begun to take only autos which use their meters. I decided to try it out for myself and asked the first autowallah I came across if he was willing to use the meter. He was. I no longer settle for autorickshaws which have no meter or where the driver refuses to use it.

I don’t bother to insist on a meter for a short distance, though. One such journey had the driver thinking I was his ally. “ Mudinjipochi, Madam. (It’s all over.) Time to give up the auto and become a supplier,” he lamented. While I was mulling over the dubious nature of his supplies and wondering if it was safe to continue sitting in his vehicle, he said he had made enquiries with some restaurant where in exchange for work (as a waiter, perhaps), they would give him three meals a day and pay him a certain amount per month. “ Veettuku povendiyadudhaan (time to shut shop),” he said mournfully, once again, as I paid him and disembarked.

I wonder how long the new state of affairs will continue. Meanwhile, my experience with what could go wrong widens. An auto I travelled in already seems to have its new meter doctored. I paid minimum fare one day even though I had paid Rs 10 more the previous day.

Another driver told me he would use his meter or not based on the destination. So if you are travelling to Besant Nagar, he will turn on his meter, but if your destination is ICF Perambur, don’t expect such largesse, because his “chances of finding a customer there are very slim”.

A few days ago, one driver claimed he did not have change for Rs 100 and refused to turn off the meter till I went in search of change and came back with it. The waiting charges added almost Rs 10 to the amount. ‘Tender exact fare’ seems to be a good directive to take seriously in these changing times.

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Published on October 07, 2013
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