Bhubaneswar, Oct. 29: Autorickshaw drivers in the state capital are guilty as “charged”, demanding arbitrary fares from passengers by taking the excuse of the recent diesel price hike.
Yesterday, Utkal University student Chandrakant Baral had an argument with an autorickshaw driver when the latter asked him to pay Rs 8 instead of the Rs 6 he had been paying till a few days ago for travelling from Vani Vihar square to Shriya Square.
“Fares seem to vary everywhere in the city. Some of the autorickshaw drivers try to fleece you citing the recent hike in diesel prices,” said Baral.
Like him, hundreds of other commuters are unhappy with the arbitrary fares being demanded by autorickshaw operators. For example, the usual fare between Vani Vihar Square and Rajmahal is Rs 9, but passengers are asked to pay anything between Rs 10 and 12.
Bhubaneswar Autorickshaw Mahasangha, an association of autorickshaw operators in the city, had earlier declared that it would not hike the fares till the Puja vacations. Now, members of the association say the government’s unwillingness to revise fares has forced them to demand uneven fares across the city.
“The government needs to set up a technical committee to revise fares. We have been demanding this for a long time but the government is least bothered. If the government can constitute a committee to revise bus fares, why not for autorickshaw fares?” said general secretary of the association Padman Kumar Samal, adding that nearly one lakh people use autorickshaws every day.
“Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Nagpur have an official tariff rate for autorickshwas but we do not have one. We have also approached government officials to introduce prepaid autorickshaw service from around 10 places in the city, including the railway station, airport and Baramunda bus terminal. But no steps have been taken,” said Samal.
On October 16, the association had called for a dawn-to-dusk strike demanding a fare revision. More than 17,000 autorickshaws ply in the city.
Passengers have also demanded an official tariff for autorickshaw fares. “With no specific fares, we often end up arguing with the driver,” said Deepak Panigrahi, a commuter. Sources in the state commerce and transport department said an autorickshaw fare structure was first introduced in the city in June 2008.
While the fare was Rs 6 for the first kilometre, it was Rs 3.10 for every subsequent kilometre. The point-to-point fare structure had been set taking the railway station as the origin. “Autorickshaws are registered as contract carriages. That means they cannot pick and drop passengers randomly. The fares are meant for three passengers, but nowadays an autorickshaw carries up to five passengers,” said a senior official of the department.
Commerce and transport minister Subrat Tarai said the government was thinking of introducing a fare structure for autorickshaws. “We will constitute a technical committee soon to revise autorickshaw fares,” said Tarai.