Hyderabad: With Metro rail and bus services still not functional, auto-rickshaw drivers in Hyderabad are having a field day and making the most of it by fleecing passengers by charging them exorbitant amounts.
Using the excuse of social distancing, auto drivers are making the most of the situation by asking higher rates, even for short distances which otherwise they would never have thought of doing. Passengers from across the city claim that auto drivers know that theirs is the only public service available and that many of them are unwilling to even bargain much.
“Earlier, before the lockdown or the COVID-19 pandemic, I used to travel on a bus every day. After the lockdown had eased, I have been travelling from the old city to Hi-Tech city in an auto by paying around Rs. 300 on a daily basis. Sometimes auto-rickshaw drivers even ask for 450 one-way,” stated Madhu, who works at an IT company.
Moreover, the issue has hit others who travel short distances even harder, as the standard fare in shared autos, which was earlier Rs 20, has now been doubled for most of the city routes. Drivers are charging Rs.40 from Shahalibanda to Falaknuma areas, or from Chandrayangutta to Shahin Nagar. The situation is the same across town, and has become an extra daily monetary burden for citizens, especially for the poor who would earlier travel via state-run buses,
The lack of options for middle class families, who used to mostly use buses are now facing difficulties, are now being forced to shell out more money on a daily basis.
“The state government should immediately restart the bus and metro rail services as everything is getting back to normal. Because of auto drivers over-charging us, half of my salary is being spent on auto fares as they ask exorbitant fares,” lamented Mohammed Shanawaz, a security guard at an ATM in Malkajgiri.
When contacted Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (TSRTC) officials refused to say the exact date as to when bus service would restart. Auto drivers on their part, however, say that they are not asking for money fares to fleece people, but because they also do not have much of an income these days. “Earlier we used to have school children passengers daily and we used to manage with that. But schools are still closed so we are facing lot of difficulties for our survival,” said an auto driver who did not want to be quoted.