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Pre-paid blues for Cuttack auto drivers

A pre-paid autorickshaw stand in Cuttack. Picture by Badrika Nath Das

Cuttack, Nov. 14: The pre-paid autorickshaw system introduced at Cuttack railway station is stuck in limbo, with the drivers angry about the indifference of the authorities towards their problems.

The pre-paid system, the first of its kind in the state, was introduced by Cuttack-Bhubaneswar police with assistance from the railway authorities on October 2 last year on an experimental basis. The intention of this project was to stop drivers from charging hefty fares from the passengers.

More than 150 autorickhaws ferrying passengers from the railway station have been engaged in the pre-paid system and two special counters have been set up in front of gate No. 1 and 2 of the station.

“The authorities have not fulfilled their assurances of establishing a proper toilet for the drivers despite a commission of Rs 2 being collected from each ticket,” said secretary of Gate No. 2 Autorickshaw Association Basudev Das.

The association claims the pre-paid fares were fixed based on the rate chart of 2007 and they had not been revised despite diesel prices going up twice this year.

“We were earlier doing business of Rs 12,000 a month. But after the introduction of the pre-paid system, we are only able to make around Rs 6,000,” said Biswanath Barik, a driver, adding that the bulk of the income was spent in repaying the loan for the autorickshaw.

The drivers also allege that the authorities are yet to take action to check the picking up of passengers by other autorickshaws from near the railway station. Also, a lot of passengers are not going for the pre-paid autorickshaws because the fare is high.

A passenger is being charged a minimum fare of Rs 30 and the maximum of Rs 120.

The drivers also want to be permitted to ferry passengers on a share basis are till Mangalabag and Badambadi, where a lot of people from other areas seek autorickhaws to go to SCB Medical College and Hospital.