Should auto fares be raised?
A seemingly simple question and for anyone living in Chennai the obvious answer would be a resounding YES but there is a need to understand why things are the way they are today with respect to the fares.
- I do not know the number of autos in the city, but I do observe that several autos that ply in the city are registered outside the city limits and that puts the locals under stress
- The vague policy of the government in allowing different fuels like petrol, gas and diesel and attempting to uniformly price the fares of autos run by differently priced fuels
- The rampant overloading of the diesel 3 seater autos that carry anywhere upto 10 passengers is not only unsafe but also denies passengers to the normal auto drivers
- The lack of regulation of the share autos and maxi cabs deny rightful fares to auto drivers
- The portioning of the city into small fiefdoms of the auto drivers who organize themselves into stands in every locality, mall, theatre, shopping areas and monopolizing the fares of that area.
- When an auto driver says that he is going empty for the return journey, he speaks the truth since the above fiefdoms will deny him any available fare
What then is the solution? A few points come to my mind:
- Eliminate stands and thereby the monopolies and the associated political affiliations that results in the high handedness of some auto drivers
- Eliminate the 3 seater autos that ply as ten seaters
- Ban all petrol & diesel autos and ask the fuel companies to open more auto gas outlets
- Regulate share autos which like the omnibuses are plying in violation of the laws of the land but in the absence of a viable alternative and the inability of the state to fund more public transport continue to exist.
(For those not in the light, share autos & omni buses do not have the stage coach permit and therefore cannot carry people over stages, they are currently plying with the contract carriage permit only that means they can carry folks from Point A to B without halts in between and cannot display the routes like a normal RTC bus.)
- Throw the market open to free pricing and let the market dynamics take over if the prices cannot be fixed, it will be a simple case of demand and supply and the survival of the fittest. This will work when a passenger if free to flag down any running auto without the menace of the neighborhood stands like in Hyderbad for instance.
- Allow cooperatives to run autos, that way collective bargaining for the drivers will be retained along with a fixed salary and a recourse for the users in times of problems
Do not forget:
-That there can be no greater guide of a city than an auto driver for the wealth of local knowledge they posses and there are some very decent auto drivers who make the journeys pleasurable.
-That considering the traffic menace that plagues the city and the challenges in parking an auto is the best form of personal transportation and at the right fare can be the most cost effective in terms of comfort.
-That every auto driver has the right to earn his living; we should permit that, we can only hope that it will be a win-win for all.
-The new call taxis offer additional services and they charge the fare accordingly but it appears that no one complains
So do we raise fares?
No. I propose that we scrap the system of fixing fares, the model has never worked and it does not appear that it will work. Let the government focus on governance and let commercial decisions be fixed by the people involved.