Srinagar: “Do you run on meter?” I ask the auto rickshaw driver.
“No, this is Kashmir not Delhi madam,” the driver replies.
“But you have the meter installed, why don’t you run it?”
“We’re not in compliance with the government regulations yet.”
Despite a directive from the Motor Vehicles Department, it is almost impossible to find an auto-rickshaw charging you by the meter in Kashmir.
With a directive to strictly comply by metered fare regulations, the Motor Vehicles Department in March 25, fixed Rs 17 as fare payable for first kilometre for an auto-rickshaw ride with Rs 13 chargeable for subsequent kilometers. Further, waiting charges were set as Rs 25 per hour, and for luggage beyond 25kg, 25 percent of the applicable fare shall be charged.
Even though meters are installed, the auto-drivers refuse to run them. They say it is severely unjust to them as it is hard to sustain a livelihood on metered rides.
“We are not demanding too much. In Delhi the auto-rickshaws charge you a down-rate of Rs.25-30 and then subsequently for the remaining distance. What wrong are we asking if we demand a similar fare here in Kashmir. After all autos in New Delhi run on CNG while we here run on petrol. How is a down-payment of Rs.17 enough to compensate the petrol-prices and where do we make an earning out of it,” says Abdul Ahad, who drives an auto in Rajbagh.
Earlier in 2014, the Motor Vehicles Department and RTO had issued a fare-list for travel between various points in the city. For a ride from, Srinagar airport to TRC , the fare listed then was Rs.163. However the auto-walas charge would twice the same amount.
Although the rates have been enhanced in March this year, the auto-drivers still refuse to comply by them.
In April, the auto-rickshaw drivers union staged a protest against the governments’ regulation deeming it extremely unfair for them.
“We are a marginalized section of the society. We have to pay for permits when deciding to start this business. Apart from this we have to get the insurance every year which costs around Rs 6000. With the government imposing such regulations, how are we to making a living in today’s circumstances,” said another auto-driver.
Whether or not the regulation is fair to the auto-walas, it is certainly unfair to the public who can still not avail the benefit of autos running on meter. The transport office should come up with a regulation which is both fair to the auto-drivers as well as the public.