The defunct prepaid auto-rickshaw counter outside Ranchi station on Tuesday. Picture by Hardeep Singh
Prepaid auto-rickshaws, which started rolling from Ranchi station on Independence Day in 2011, have not been plying for the past month, leaving passengers at the mercy of the usual fleet of illegal three-wheelers.
On Tuesday afternoon, as Shatabdi Express chugged in from Calcutta, hundreds of passengers were seen bargaining with the drivers, who took full advantage of shoddy monitoring by Ranchi district administration and fleeced them at will.
“Why you are charging Rs 200 for Peace Road when the genuine fare is Rs 120?” an old lady was heard protesting.
After 10 minutes, the deal was finally struck at Rs 140. The woman left for her destination — Peace Road near Lalpur, around 3km from the station — but not before cursing the district administration for its failure to run the prepaid autos.
“Prepaid tempo thakle bhalo hoto. Bharar jonyo ei rokom tarko korar pore sei tempo te boshe bhalo lagche na (It would have been better had there been prepaid auto-rickshaws. I don’t like sitting on this auto after so much of haggling over fare),” she was heard saying to her husband in Bengali.
The experience of other passengers was no different.
Arun Prakash, who had gone to the station to receive a friend, said had he not come, the latter would have been easily cheated into paying double fare. “If a person visiting the capital for the first time does not any have any local contact, he is bound to be fleeced by auto drivers,” Prakash said, before boarding a three-wheeler for Deepatoli.
A member of Petrol Auto-rickshaw and Taxi Chalak Sangh Abhijeet Kumar explained that the prepaid service stopped after the contract of one Mohammed Shamim, who was tasked to run the kiosk and issue the slips, expired.
Ranchi Municipal Corporation (RMC), which is supposed to look after the service, claimed ignorance.
RMC chief executive officer Manoj Kumar said: “I have recently assumed office and hence not aware of anything.”
Former general secretary of Ranchi Railway Station Petrol-Fuelled Auto-rickshaw Union Mohammed Tabrez blamed lack of administrative vigil for the mess.
“If the district administration decided to run prepaid autos from the station, it should have also monitored the service. Unfortunately, it didn’t bother, while autos without prepaid permits make hay. They hardly let a passenger come up to the prepaid kiosk,” Tabrez said.
He added that the matter was brought to the notice of the authorities concerned, but nothing was done to rein in the illegal autos.