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Auto fares stuck in RTA-union spat

Nov. 29: The continuing tussle between the autorickshaw unions and the administration over fares is likely to create more hassles for the commuters.

The Regional Transport Authority today denied further revision of auto fares fixed on November 12 while the auto unions continue to charge fares according to their will without paying heed to the new directives.

RTA secretary K.C. Hazarika told The Telegraph that there was no possibility of talks with the unions to revise the fares, a condition set by unions to decide on the fare rates and installing meters.

“According to the Motor Vehicles Act, it is not binding on us to discuss with the unions before fixing new rates. We have already announced the new rates and if they (unions) fail to comply with the directives, our enforcement wing will take appropriate action,” Hazarika said.

The transport authority had issued a notification on RTA November 16 asking unions to install fare meters within three months and fixed Rs 20 for the first 1km and Rs 1.90 for every next 200 metres. It also announced that commuters would have to pay 50 per cent more than the regular fare between 9pm and 6am.

Hazarika’s comment, however, invited anger from the auto unions which announced they would not abide by the directives and termed it a “one-sided” decision and a “ploy to rob the bread” of those plying autorickshaws.

“We want to make it clear that we will not follow the new rates until we are called for discussion. If they can talk to the city bus and trekkers’ union, why can’t they invite us for talks and fix the rates?” asked the secretary of All Guwahati Autorickshaw Chalak Sangstha, Naren Pathak.

Hazarika said they had talks with the bus unions after they had gone on strike recently. “We invited the bus unions as they had resorted to a strike and if a similar situation arises in the case of the autorickshaws, we will act accordingly,” he said. It seems the authority is waiting for autos to go on strike before calling them to talks.

Pathak said, “The administration started the process to kill the profession of auto drivers in 2004 when they stopped giving new licences. In 2004, there were 4,552 autorickshaws but now the number has come down to around 1,200 licensed vehicles and another 6,000, which are plying in Guwahati with licences in the neighbouring districts. As a result, the transport department officials harass autorickshaw drivers every day. However, the same officials give permission to private taxis, who are charging Rs 17 per kilometre.”

There are around 8,000 autorickshaws plying on the streets but without fare meters like those in the rest of the country.

With the blame-game continuing between the two parties, many residents termed it as another exercise, which will make no difference to the transport system. “Since 2004, we have seen how the issue of installing fare meters has remained limited to a blame game. We will not be surprised if things turn out the same this time too,” said Satish Chandra Das, a senior resident.


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