A diesel-run auto-rickshaw plies at Kadru Chowk, Ranchi, on new fares on Friday. Picture by Hardeep Singh
After tomatoes and potatoes, autos will burn a hole in your pocket.
Diesel-run three-wheelers in Ranchi arbitrarily jacked up their fares up to Rs 3 on Friday while the district administration remained mute spectator, citing either ignorance or jurisdiction limits.
President of Jharkhand Diesel Auto Chalak Sangh Dinesh Soni said they had decided to hike fares in the wake of an increase (59 paise) in fuel cost and parking fee. “Besides, we often have to grease palms of traffic constables,” he justified their move.
Surprisingly, neither the state transport department nor the Ranchi administration seems to have control over the fleecing auto-rickshaws.
DTO Rajesh Kumar initially “wasn’t aware” of the hike and when enlightened, he claimed that the transport department did not have any specified rule to regulate such fare hikes.
“The department’s job is to issue permits and check licences among other thing. Fare hike is administrative domain as it comes under the law and order issue. In case the increase in fare is illogical and unwarranted, the traffic police or the district administration has to act,” he washed his hands of the matter.
Kumar, however, said that only a special committee, comprising all stakeholders, had the authority to hike fares. “This is the normal practice. The committee, which functions under the aegis of the subdivisional magistrate (SDM), has to give the go-ahead because auto fare hike is a matter of public interest. The committee has representatives from the auto association, passenger association, traffic police and district transport office,” the DTO maintained.
Defending their decision, president of the auto outfit Soni claimed that they had been pursuing the district administration for holding a meeting of stakeholders for over a month now, but to no avail.
“So, we decided on our new rates and informed the SDM’s office last (Thursday) night. The new rates are applicable from today (Friday). Auto-rickshaw drivers too have families to run,” he said, adding that all vehicles will soon display the new fares for commuter convenience.
Ranchi SDM Amit Kumar insisted that he was too busy with peace efforts in Chanho block, following unrest over land a few days ago, to concentrate on other matters.
Deputy commissioner Vinay Kumar Choubey underscored that the administration didn’t and couldn’t control auto-rickshaw fares. “It is market-driven and the association takes its own call. We can regulate city bus fares because the government runs it. Auto-rickshaws have private owners,” he reasoned.
Strangely, the transport department reiterated that the matter was under administrative jurisdiction.
“Since the administration issues permits and licenses, so virtually, it is bound to ensure standardised and well-regulated fares,” said an official.
Choubey shot back, saying there wasn’t any rulebook that asks the administration to regulate auto fares. “The administration issues liquor licences and drug permits too, but that doesn’t mean it can regulate their prices; or for that matter the prices of vegetables,” he said.
In this blame game, commuters were the ones hit hard.
“The new fare from Bariatu to Lalpur is Rs 9 instead of the earlier Rs 7. So, my monthly conveyance budget will shoot up by Rs 120 (to and fro journey). If diesel prices increase again next month, god knows how much we will be asked to cough up,” said Saurabh Singh, a bank executive.
Have you worked out a new monthly conveyance budget?