City’s autowalas charge exorbitant rates, claim commuters; drivers justify

Hyderabad: Even as lockdown restrictions eased and the government allowed for the running of public transport, people still prefer private hiring—including cabs and autos, for safe travel. But, the autowalas are exploiting the situation to charge exorbitant fares with no meter.

Approximately over one lakh autos run in Hyderabad. The rules state that the auto riders must charge hiring fare as per the meter, but the auto drivers barely adhere to that rule anywhere in the city.

Elderly couple Mr. and Mrs. Yadav Singh, who always fail to bargain with the drivers, end up paying those hefty fares. “When we try to bargain, they are just outrightly rude. It’s either settling with those high fares or choosing to go out walking,” they said.

Auto drivers charge at least Rs. 200 from Tolichowki to Ameerpet, which as per the meter reading costs between Rs 100- Rs 120 only. When asked Venkatesam, auto drivers’ association president said, “Even as the fares get revised by the government, the fuel prices increase manifold. It is not wrong on our part to charge more, because it is our livelihood.”

He said that the fare per kilometer should increase from Rs 11 to Rs 25. They say that if they go by the meter, it will be difficult for them to make ends meet.

Justifying the rates, he further said, “The police checks, too, don’t happen as often, which is why we have the freedom to charge more, to cover our expenses.”

Though the association’s president denied that Ola and Uber are not harmful to their business, auto drivers claim that those registered with the company earn more as they are paid by the company. “Many of us are not very tech-savvy. We cannot operate a smartphone,” said an auto driver at Charminar crossroad. “With Ola and Uber, our business is already down. Now, it will be difficult to adhere to the meter rule,” he said.

The Legal Metrology Department which is responsible for recalibration of meters and enforcing penalties in case there was tampering in auto is now shifting all the work online and because of work is on halt, said an official who did not want to be named. He also said, “The transport department and the traffic police have to take action on the issue pertaining to collection of the auto fares.”

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