SRINAGAR: People, especially the working class who travel late in the evening, have welcomed the order of transport department asking auto-rickshaw owners to install fare meters within a month.
In absence of fare meters in auto-rickshaws, their drivers have often been accused of charging exorbitantly in the Srinagar city.
Commuters say that the rates increase many fold in the evening when buses ply thinly on the routes and as such people depend on these rickshaws for travelling.
“Once, I got late and tried to hire an auto from Lalchowk to my home in Sonwar. For this distance of few kilometers, the auto driver charged me Rs. 100,” says Afshan, a private school teacher.
“It is like loot. The auto rickshaw drivers charge whatever they like to. There is no cap on the fare,” laments Ishtiyaq Ahmed, a government employee.
Ambreen Shah, mother of two who has to pick her kids from school in the afternoon, says that one can’t bargain with the auto drivers every time.
“We do have public buses but they are time-consuming. Sometimes you have an emergency and auto drivers take advantage of that,” says Ambreen.
The transport department has given the auto rickshaw owners the month of September to get the fare meters installed.
“The defaulting vehicles will be seized after the deadline,” Itrat Hussain, special secretary, transport department said.
Currently 10,000 auto rickshaws are plying on the roads of Srinagar city.
The owners of these rickshaws are skeptical about the fare meters.
Abdul Gani, who has been driving the rickshaw for the past 35 years, says that this move will not be a success. “They tried to install meters many times. But it has been a failure because the meters installed are of low quality and get defunct after short period of time,” he says.
Some auto drivers have also welcomed the move saying that it will save them from the arguments with passengers over rates.