Delhiites pay 150 per cent more in auto fares

New Delhi, October 7 :

Even as the Delhi government claims it is preparing to make the capital a world-class city before the 2010 Commonwealth Games, there is a dire need to streamline the basic transport system.

A study points out that commuters are paying 150 per cent more than the actual auto fares in the city! Sanjay Kaul, president, People’s Action, a non-government organisation that conducted the study, said, “We conducted a detailed study on the faulty auto rickshaws fares. We found that an average commuter is charged over 150 per cent more than the actual fare.”

The study found commuters paid up even more for shorter distances. “The electronic meters being used in auto rickshaws are tampered,” Kaul said.

Delhi has a wide network with over 74,000 autos plying in different areas of the capital. The growth of the auto rickshaw network can be gauged from the fact that in 2003 there were around 55,000 autos.

“The government had claimed that these meters were tamper-proof. This is not true. The government prefers to look the other way because auto drivers form a vote bank of over 200,000 people and nobody would want to upset equations,” he said. Kaul said several

of his teams were stationed at various market places, railway stations, bus stands and airports.

“We compared the amount paid by us to the fare list issued by the transport department and found that on an average commuters were paying over 150 per cent more,” said Kaul. The Delhi government accepts that citizens are being cheated due to faulty auto meters, senior officials say that the situation is not all that bad.

“We have issued orders to the transport and the weight and measurement departments to carry out regular checks,” said Abhijit Sarkar, transport secretary, Delhi government.

“We have received complaints that auto drivers are not complying with rules and are charging more money,” Sarkar said. “The government is aware that some auto drivers have tampered with their meters and are charging more money. As per our information, we have been told that regular checks are conducted,” said Sarkar.

Sarkar said, in a recent meeting of senior officials of the two departments, it was decided that steps would be taken to streamline the public transport system in the capital. The weight and measurement department blamed the transport department for the faulty auto rickshaw meters.

“We were supposed to start a drive to nab these auto drivers but we have not been able to do so because the transport department has not provided us with the required manpower,” said Subhash, zonal officer of weight and measurement department.

This year around 1,000 faulty auto meters have been seized and 400 people prosecuted. “The auto drivers using faulty auto meters have to pay a fine of Rs 2,000 Indian Currency (IC) ,” said Subhash.