An auto-rickshaw being refilled in Ranchi on Sunday, after the petrol price hike. Picture by Hardeep Singh
Ranchiites dreading yet another jump in auto-rickshaw fares after the latest hike in fuel prices are in for a pocket-friendly surprise.
The unions have promised that you will be charged the existing fare, but with the condition that you will only feel the pinch — a prickly 10 per cent extra — if you reserve petrol-driven auto-rickshaws.
The price of petrol was hiked by Rs 1.50 per litre and diesel by 45 paise nationally on Friday.
In Ranchi, however, the hike is Rs 1.80 for petrol and 53 paise for diesel as the state administration charges 20 and 18 per cent as value added tax respectively.
The two auto-rickshaw unions in the state capital — Chotanagpur Taxi Tempo Driver Union and Jharkhand Pradesh Diesel Auto Chalak Mahasangh — announced not to increase auto fares after a decision on Saturday.
There are around 1,000 petrol-operated auto-rickshaws, whereas the number of diesel-run autos is nearly 8,000 in and around Ranchi.
“Though we will suffer minor losses, we are not going to raise the fare for the time being. In Ranchi, petrol will now cost Rs 68.48 and diesel Rs 50.33 per litre. But the next time there is a diesel price hike, we will have no option but to raise the fare,” said Shakil Akhtar, the president of Chotanagpur Taxi Tempo Driver Union.
Last year in June, diesel auto fares saw a hike of Re 1, besides Rs 2 for the two-wheelers running on petrol.
Chotanagpur Taxi Tempo Driver Union monitors diesel-run auto-rickshaws, while Jharkhand Pradesh Diesel Auto Chalak Mahasangh takes care of petrol-driven autos.
Asked about frequent complaints against auto drivers arbitrarily charging money from passengers in the name of fuel hike, Akhtar said the union was planning to hold a meeting next week to discuss the issue.
“We do receive such complaints. It is mandatory for every member of the union to display a fare chart. We are going to hold a meeting next week. The problem is that the district administration, too, never issued any directive for a clear-cut rule on increase in fare,” he said.
Jharkhand Pradesh Diesel Auto Chalak Mahasangh president Dinesh Soni told The Telegraph: “We were forced to hike fare big 10 per cent in case of passengers who reserve petrol-operated auto-rickshaws. The increase is quite minimal. But fare for unreserved autos has not been increased.”
Soni said the organisation would soon inform authorities at the prepaid taxi stands in Ranchi Railway Station and other places about the decision.
Interestingly, a faction of the organisation led by Lankesh has not made any decision to this effect.
A 10 per cent increase will make a substantial difference for passengers.
For instance, those who were earlier charged Rs 200 to travel from Gandhinagar (Kanke Road) to Ranchi Railway Station would now have to pay another Rs 20.
“We know that auto-rickshaws do not run on water. But any increase in fare must be logical, even if somebody reserves an auto. There are cases of arbitrary hike only because the district administration fails to regularise fare,” argued Deepak Prasad, a resident of Gandhinagar.
Could the 10 per cent fare hike in petrol autos be avoided?