Unless you’ve been living under a rock you probably know that today is MeterJam day.  Basically we tell it to the auto guys who rip us off on a daily basis. Now I pretty much jumped for joy when I heard of the idea. Is it workable? Not really. How are people supposed to commute if they don’t take autos? Those who takes autos are usually those who have no other option.

Now while I was beaming from ear to ear I read a couple of posts and realised that a lot of people have a different point of view. I see the validity of some of their points. But I also disagree with a lot of their points.

For one, I disagree with the assumption that its a bunch of spoilt brats creating a ruckus. Spoilt brats are not taking autos. They drive Papa’s BMW over pavement dwellers. People who take autos are those who can’t afford their own cars or are on a route that doesn’t have proper public transport. Perhaps they are even those who can’t afford a car but can afford a little more than a bus ticket and choose to sit in comfort instead of having their noses jammed in someone’s smelly armpit or someone’s crotch pressed into their back. What harm is there in choosing to take an auto if you can afford it? Aren’t we also working to lead more comfortable lives ? I mean isn’t that what gives the auto guy his custom? I don’t get the whole holier-than-thou argument of ‘walk’ or take other public transport. Autos are completely legit means of transport. Its what they charge that is pretty illegitimate.

Next point for those arguing for the auto guys. ” Poor guys. They are so poor. This is their livelihood. Why grudge them Rs 30 that you would spend on a Pepsi without thinking?” To which I say, hell, I don’t spend on a Pepsi without thinking, so speak for yourself. There seems to be some confusion over whether the auto-users are rich or poor. Rich people rarely take autos, my friend. And they probably spend thousands without a thought. They’re are not the people you should be talking about anyway.

Why should I feel beholden to give him extra just because I slogged ass and earn more than he does. Do the Tatas or Ambanis feel obliged to give me some because I make less than them? There is then the matter of choice because you know, its MY money. IF  I can afford it, I might choose to pick up a beer, a movie ticket or a Pepsi. Its a luxury. I don’t have a choice when it comes to going to work though. Sometimes the closest metro station is just short of a km from my office.  With my knees, I am lucky if I can even walk half that distance without dying of agony. But this is not me. In every city, there are thousands of routes that the buses, trains and trams don’t navigate. How does one propose we travel if not via auto? What about those other than me who cannot take a bus for some reason? Pregnancy, people with ailments, people who are late for a meeting and don’t have the luxury of waiting for a bus that will take them on a 1.5 hour ride around the city before reaching their stop. And what is with the whole  ‘use public transport’ argument?

Aren’t autos are an essential part of public transport? Don’t they need a licence from the government to run one?  Aren’t there rules governing them? Why don’t we pay extra to bus and train drivers who often run extra shifts without getting any extra credit for it? I am not asking you to deny them their right. I am willing to work with the government or whoever else is willing to help, and work out a rate that is suitable to both parties. Hell, I am willing to pay the rate given on the chart. How in this case, am I the aggressor?

This will lead to the argument that they don’t own the autos they drive and there is a rampant auto mafia blah blah. I get it. And I feel for them. But if that is the case, go get those bad guys and maybe work out a different way to help auto drivers. A more legal way. Why make me pay the price for the situation? Most of us are regular service class people, struggling to better our lives too. Struggle means different things to different people, but I’ve never bought the theory that those less fortunate have no pride or honesty. I am also up half the night and sleep deprived and stressed out because of my job. Is that reason enough for me to cheat? Would you buy it if I cheated you of something and said oh, you know, my boss doesn’t pay me what I deserve? Dude, take it up with the boss. It is every autowala’s dream to own his auto. It’s also my dream to own my own magazine and my own home. At the moment I am underpaid at work and overcharged by my landlord because builders have taken real estate out of my realm and my father hasn’t built a house for me (damn you, daddy! I forgive you the BMW but you really should buy me a house in Delhi).  We are all being screwed over by somebody and we all have our compulsions.

You know, how people often say, oh don’t leave your wallet out, you’ll tempt the maid because she is so poor. Hell, if you leave your wallet out, you will tempt anyone. Are you saying you’ve never heard of a politician or a big corporation pulling off a financial scam? Would you forgive them? Why different morality for the autowalas then?

And if you’re going to say that we all earn on incentive based programs then I’ll agree that yes, we do. And so would they. The more passengers or trips they do in a day, the more they earn. Instead you see them sitting at corners refusing to go to X or Y part of the city (That, by the way, is illegal – they are not meant to  refuse to take you unless its a meal time or the end of their work day – and they’re meant to put the meter down if they are done for the day). They can’t say no to you and yes to the next person. If they want to be treated like professionals they have to take whatever they get. Do they go out of the way to do you any service? Will they help you carry your packages? Will they turn the auto around and go in the opposite direction from the one they were going in? So often I’ve had autowalas drop me off on the other side of a busy road, with 5 big bags of groceries, refusing to drop me at my gate because they don’t want to turn around. Is that professional? I’ve often left an auto driver with a tip if he goes beyond the call of duty.  How are they any different from waiters who only get tipped if they serve well?

So they get stuck in jams, they drive in all conditions but hey, thats the damn job. We also go to office no matter what the weather conditions, no matter who is dying or ill and we also work long hours. There are people who work entire night shifts for years on end, and never mind what that does to their body. Years ago I was working with a TV channel where I was putting in a 20 hour day on a regular basis. There are still people who do that. If you don’t like a particular job – change it. Let them take lessons and look for jobs as car drivers. Anything. There are sweepers out on the roads doing their job no matter what the weather.

I don’t mean to belittle their job or dismiss their problems. Quite the contrary. I mean that every job has its pros and cons and if you’re educated/trained only to do a particular job, you have no other option. People with desk jobs have back problems and joint problems. Airhostesses, pilots, media people and call centre people end up sleeping and waking at odd hours. That doesn’t make it right to extort.

Because that is what it comes down to. Why say oh, its raining, so I will charge double. Errr… why? You’re not a cycle rickshaw puller who is physically dragging me through slush and puddles. You’re dry inside the auto while I am standing outside soaked to the bone.  If anything, I’d pay a cycle rickshaw guy a lot more and the night watchman too.

I think the problem is the extremist thinking. This is not persecution. We’re asking for fair rates to be paid. We’re asking for our public transport to be accessible, available and yes, affordable. We’re asking not to be held ransom by the auto driver’s moods. We’re asking that they don’t smoke beedis while driving, tamper with meters, take the long route and lead newcomers a wild goose chase, don’t talk on their cell phones, that they go according to the meter, that they don’t pick and choose destinations, don’t try to force me to share the auto, don’t get another strange man to sit with them while driving and generally, behave in as professional manner as they demand to be treated.

I think its unfair that a certain segment of society is bearing the burden of every other section. Not only do I pay taxes that go into a politicians pocket, I also pay my electricity bill while the auto guy pulls a ‘katiya’ or an illegal connection to his house from mine, so that I foot his bill too. People in business are busy evading taxes while like fools we hand our 30% in religiously. So then why don’t we also use that as an excuse to misbehave.

I have often had auto guys refuse to give me change. They are unwilling to drive up to a local paan shop and get change. They take that last Rs 5 or Rs 10 as their right. The issue here is not whether I would spend that Rs 5 or Rs 10 unthinkingly. It is the principle of the matter. We have either decided on an amount or come according to the meter. Then why must they assume that that Rs 5 is theirs to do as they please? Isn’t it my choice? What if I want to give it to a beggar? Or drop it in a CRY donation box? It is my money and my choice. As long as I am not cheating on the fare, I’m not in the wrong.

There are plenty of people who earn less than the auto guy and give you less attitude too. I feel pretty sorry for sweepers and night watchmen who are out in all types of weather. And maybe the meterjam will not really help. But it’s a start. It says we’re equally unhappy with the way things are. Maybe half the auto-using junta and all the autowalas will not get to even know about it. But if we can start something constructive, some sort of government intervention, then why not? This is not just for us. Heck, it might work out to be the start of something better for us too. Yeah, yeah, I know live in a fool’s paradise!

And oh, this is not all bad. Maybe when people realise they can manage without autos, they will stick with those methods, walk that extra two minutes, carpool, do whatever, reduce the carbon footprint. And hey, the auto drivers can then sit back, put their feet up and smoke beedis without being overworked.


69 thoughts on “MeterJam

  1. although these days i seldom use the Auto… i still feel angry with the way they tried to extract that extra money. being in delhi, it was impossible to avoid taking auto rikshaw, and then paying them what they demanded. i very often walked as far as your home just to find an autowalah who was cheaper than the others. when i demanded that we should go by meter, they just laughed off as if to say “you are a fool, who goes by the meter?” and worse of all, if you try to lodge complain, it hardly works. i always wondered why they would not take me to small distance distance instead sit and chat with fellow drivers. don,t they need money?

    in noida we have an option of cycle rikshaw and best part is that they have more or less fixed rates for landmarks and markets. not cheap, but it relieves me from haggling. autos are expensive even here… more than delhi, and what worse, they don’t even have meters.

    some kind of electronic meter system or prepaid card system like metros can definetly make a difference.. it won’t stop cheating completly, but will certainly reduce it.

  2. Brilliantly put! Infact when I heard about it on the radio, I felt the same excitement.. though I don’t even travel by autos anymore. But till about a year back I did every single day, and it was a nightmare. Not agreeing to go to the place you want to go, extra night charges, extra rain charges, madam change nahi hai, will have to get fuel on the way, meter tampering, auto sharing with shady looking characters, dropping you in some sunsaan jungle.. I’ve seen it all and I’m glad the public voice is being channeled in a way that’s both harmless and effective.

    You’re so right.. people like us seem to be told off as “spoilt brats”.. for what? For working our butts off and being able to afford something better than a public bus, which btw we all have had enough experience of! Who are these take-the-bus people to tell me what I should do and what not? THEY can take a walk. And again MM, damn right it is, have you ever seen a cycle rickshaw puller – who works in much worse conditions and a much more physically demanding kind of job – throw a tantrum about stuff? They don’t even have a meter to go by, goddammit. I feel those are the people who’ve resigned to being underpaid, not these goons.

  3. I cant agree more..i agree to every word u have written. SOmetimes i even tell autowllahs when they overcharge that they are not the ony ones working hard or hit by inflation..we work equally hard..if u see a woman involed in a deep philosophical discussion about morality and work ethics that would be me ;D

    • OMG I do the same. I fail to understand why 46 will get rounded off to 50. I know I’m being a bitch but if they don’t have change I have often told them fine I’l round it off to 40. After all I work hard for my money too – come rain or sun or smoke or fog or cold. I don’t charge extra for that. One nincompoop once told me that it was for the privilege of sitting in an AC office all day, at which I asked him if he knew what I did for a living and when he couldn’t give an answer, I told him to shut up.

      Approaching the traffic cops also doesn’t usually work because they instead ask me what difference do a few rupees make? I told him to pay it since a few rupees made no difference to him but I worked hard for ever ruppee I earn

  4. Now this is a post a la TMM 😉

    Being poor doesn’t give them the right to overcharge us, especially while taking drags on their beloved bidis.
    I can sense the trolls gearing up 😉

  5. KUDOS!! I don’t understand people taking up for auto wallahs. Bangalore has reports of auto wallahs slapping women who refused to pay extra. So a couple of months back when my commute time for 2 hours a day and I took to reporting every goddamned auto driver who fooled around with the meter or charged extra, people around me were worried. But it worked like magic. For me at least. I know that the traffic police would probably take a hefty bribe to let them go without any further trouble, but now I know that just mentioning “police” is enough for these idiots here to calm down and take the correct amount.

    I think it has a lot to do with our attitude. We give them those extra bucks to save ourselves the trouble of haggling, when we will willingly haggle at Commercial Street (or Janpath, for the uninitiated). Why on earth should I give someone the few extra bucks that I have earned and they haven’t? Especially with the kind of attitude coming my way!

    You know these idiots are a menace not just for people who sit in their autos. I shit bricks at the thought of driving in this city because I see how my husband has to handle their threatening maneuvers in traffic and try to intimidate you by making it look like they are coming for you. Your fault? That you are in a car and they are not! I have seen this happen while I was sitting in a car and when I was sitting in an auto. I don’t go to Mr Narayan Murthy’s house with a fake gun to intimidate him because he is so rich! Why should I take it then?

    Meter Jam has been quite successful in Bangalore. I got to office on a car and I will go home walking (fortunately my days of 2 hour long commute are long gone). I hope this doesn’t end up like every other initiative. There is news of auto drivers claiming that customers are their God today. LOL! I hope they remember that tomorrow too. And no, I am not trying to belittle them. Client comes first in every profession after all.

  6. just thinking about auto guys in bangalore makes me fume to say the least!

    they refuse almost all the time, over charge and cheat as if thats the way autos are supposed to work and refuse change.

    i mean seriously why should I give up on 5bucks? i also work hard to earn it!

    and i see them having no discretion when it comes to cheating folks out of money or refusing. pregnant women, old folks even people waiting outside hospitals!

    and i dont buy lets not paint everyone with the same brush because 95% of them are just terrible! period!

    you should see their expressions and they threaten not just you but even the crappy traffic police in the city! HATE em. if they are working to make a living, so am I.

    and ofcos the legendary “But you are IT saar!”. what about us poor Non -IT folks? and why should IT folks pay more just ‘coz they have fat salaries. does that scream “take me for a ride/” pun intended! gah!!!!!!

    i am just gonna go and take some deep breaths! 🙂


  7. My last comment does not make sense at a lot of places. I have a call in 10 minutes. Will come back and correct 😛 Please don’t kill me for this 😀

  8. I don’t think Meterjam is saying that you absolutely can’t take autos – more a kind of way to put pressure on autowalas and make them realize that people are seriously pissed. I do agree that autowalas tamper with meters, are rude etc etc. However, there is one thing that (however much it may be irritating to the passenger) – I would never force them to do – and this is – force them to take a passenger regardless of whether they want to or not.

    I don’t think it is right to say that an autowala cannot treat different clients differently, and cannot say No to one and Yes to the other. After all, he is like any other self-employed professional. As a freelance writer, do I not have the choice to turn down jobs I don’t want to do? Can a lawyer not pick and choose his cases? Why should not an autowala have that freedom? Yes, as a passenger, that’s very inconvenient – but thats the price we pay for a free market. Only government provided goods and services have to be equal to everyone.

    • i agree. that as a freelancer you can do that. but you dont get a govt licence and neither are you part of essential services such as transport. what if train drivers did that?

      • The railways are a govt funded /owned entity. I don’t think autos are public entities in that sense. They don’t “get” a license – they pay for it; as a freelancer, I may pay for a registration too to set up a sole-proprietorship. That doesn’t make me govt owned or a public entity.

        Coming to essential services – well, yes, transport is essential (from the consumer perspective), but that still doesn’t make it compulsory for a private provider to give you a ride. Like I said – perils of a free market.

        • okay – point still being, that anyone who applies for a licence, does so knowing that it means the govt regulates certain parts of their affairs.

          and to the other part of your comment -fine, let him price it as he wishes, and we will demonstrate or react in the best way we can to show our disapproval at either the pricing or the attitude.

    • I agree, Apu has a point…they should have SOME leeway in choosing customers and routes, but NOT to the extent of saying No all the time, or demanding extra for any destination, or sitting around half the day gossipping and gambling with their cronies at street corners.

        • exactly, who decides the goddamn leeway? especially when police is as spineless when it comes to dealing with miscreants.

          the refusal is just so blatant. they drive around slooowwwllly for hours but wont take you till you destination. totally pissing off! gah!

    • Well said Apu. In Delhi, people want to take the autowallahs to the police for turning them down. In turn the policemen exploit the hapless autowallah. They are private entrepreneurs living in a free country. They have every right to refuse passengers, just like I refuse a job that does not pay me what I consider as fair.

      • 1. its not just Delhi, its everywhere. the meterjam originated in Bangalore
        2. its a free country, yes. but the autowalas operate under certain govt made regulations here. if they dont like it, they need to take it to the govt. you make it sound as though consumers made the rules and set the rates!

  9. You think you’ve got it bad, try living in London: even without devious meter-running that goes on too often, taxis are so expensive that all but the top earners are completely priced out. I know people who’ve never even been in one. Horribly packed buses and subway trains with no air-conditioning are the only option for the vast majority here, apart from pre-booked minicabs.

  10. You’ve said it all MM, every word I’m thinking.

    The worst experience I’ve ever had is when I took 4 year old Div for an eye checkup, driving us in the car. I didn’t realise the eye drops would dilate my eyes so much that I couldn’t drive back. The doc advised me not to. So when I stepped into the blinding sunshine, it was a terrible shock…truly a case of the blind leading the blind. I flagged down auto after auto. The only one that stopped saw my condition and demanded 20 extra to take the U-turn because he realised I wouldn’t be able to cross the road. How inhuman could he get? I yelled hysterically at him. And marched across the road risking our lives. Got a kindly fellow after that, or maybe it was the furious look on my face that warned him not to mess with me.

    • see – this is my point. increase the rates. dont take govt approval. but dont look for those who are weak or suffering and go out of your way to crook them, then whine about your problems and make me feel that i owe you because i am more privileged. behave well and i’ll tip you or pay you more. whatever.

  11. Woman I want to give you a big big hug! I agree with everything you’ve said. Spoilt brats my ass! If one was so spoilt we’d all just drive around in our big cars with the AC on all day. And the whole sham of making us feel guilty by saying what is just ten extra rupees? I work hard to earn every paisa I make so its my choice where and how I want to spend my money. 30 bucks overtime adds up to a lot of money. The fast meters and refusing to take commuters is plain unacceptable. I am so glad we are doing something about it, I didn’t take an auto today and hope I don’t have to take one for the rest of the day, I don’t know if it will make a huge difference or not but its time we took a stand. Some of these guys are plain heartless, they turn you down even if you are getting drenched in the rain and carrying a zillion bags.

    • precisely my point. if i were so poor and so hard up for money i’d take every job that came my way. the problem with many of these people is that they dont care. they will only take the jobs they want – and then try and fleece you for all you’re worth to make up for the rest of the day’s lazing about.

  12. Yes. I’ve got plenty of rude annoying autowallahs too. And I take an auto from my home to my bus stop (which is right in one of the most central parts of town, not out of the way at all), and am almost never allowed to pay by the meter.

    And I’ve seen autowallahs pulling out fake rate cards too.

    • thats all I’m saying. I’m not saying ‘don’t give the buggers their due’
      I’m saying if you feel there is a problem, support better govt policies for them. don’t justify their cheating and extortion. you wouldnt do it for any other class of workers.

      • Exactly.

        I used to have a lot of sympathy for autowallahs in Pune when I first moved here. They used to be mostly polite and willing, and if they asked for a few rupees extra, I didn’t mind.

        But in the part of town I live in now, autowallahs ALWAYS refuse to be paid by the meter, and often refuse to go at all. How do you sympathise with that?

  13. I am sure we all have a trunk load of good experiences with auto/cab drivers, and an equally large(r) one with horror stories.

    My irritation with the meter jam campaign is the understanding that we have to “show” them what we can do. They are hardly the adversary, or are they?

    We are not at their mercy, we are at the mercy of a peverse city structure that completely overlooks safe and affordable transport to ones place of work as a right. Our indignation at those “cheating” “thieving” drivers needs to be seen from a standpoint outside our selves.

    I can tell you reams about the “plight” of the drivers. You see i have soent the past two years chatting with taxi and auto drivers for a film i am doing with them. I am unambiguous about where my sympathy lies. And yes, even I do argue and holler when i am being cheated. But thats really not the point at all.

    I am not asking you to shell out that extra hundred bucks for no rhyme or reason. I am asking you to think about the structure wherein the driver sees no other way than this in earning his daily bread. Its the pathetic city planning and the complete hands off approach of the state that should make us seethe.

    • I’m sorry Sur, but I must disagree. I understand they have problems, but that is no reason to justify their behaviour. I understand why they are cheating but that does not mean we should accept it or not protest against it. When you say you arent asking us to shell out extra money for no reason – I disagree again. Its not a good enough reason to me. the city planning is pathetic, but I do pay taxes and I am willing to participate in any other form of protest to the govt. What I am unwilling to do, is pay arbitrary amounts above the fare sheet.
      Are they not behaving like adversaries when they cheat or extort? What else would be considered adversarial behaviour. If I am expected to behave in a fair manner so should they. If they have a problem, let them petition. Let them do what they want, they have unions. And we’ll support them. They lose our support the moment they penalise us for their lack of facilities. This is a developing country. At some level most of us are struggling. It doesnt help to crook your co-sufferers if you want a better system.

      • I am not asking you to hell out that extra 100 bucks. As i mentioned, i haggle too. But no, the adversary is not the auto driver/cab driver.

        And i am not talking about a system- i am talking about a cash rich municipality not doing its work. I am being specific, its easy to vent your ire at the fellow in front of you.

        And its easy to call the fellow in front of you a “cheat” in a city that allows you access to cabs and autos at affordable rates. No other global city does that. Middle class people cannot afford to take cabs on a daily basis in any other global city. We get things cheap, and for a reason!

          • its also not a a question of you understanding their problems- and believe me there are many and so crushing that people like us would not be able to imagine. But that is not my point, my point is about imagining ourselves as victims in a system that is so heavily biased towards our comforts that its obscene. That awareness might make us understand the context better.
            And i repeat, that does not mean that you should happily shell out the extra dough when demanded- it means having the humanity to not feel that we are the only wronged ones here.

        • I understand that the system is the problem Sur. Not the auto wala. but he is making me the adversary by forcing me to pay for the system’s flaws.
          i also realise that labour is cheap in india which is why we get cabs cheap. but that is a problem that is common to the entire country. because labour is cheap our teachers are paid a pittance, our Univ professors barely make a living considering how well educated they are, its why we have sweat shops, call centres and little children making bombs in sivakasi. its also why i get paid a fraction of what any other fancy lifestyle journalist gets paid in the US and why I cannot afford the Jimmy Choos my counterparts there can. Our gardners come in rags, theirs drive in to do their work. everything in India is cheaper than it is abroad and all of us get paid less than they get paid there. i’m sorry, but this argument doesnt work for me.

          • The reason we can’t afford Jimmy Choos is the exchange rate. Luxury rands price their goods the same regardless of local currency. So while a $400 shoe is within reach for a lot of Americans, for most Indian people it’s not.
            However, “cheap” labor is as cheap as it is because there are no labor laws in India setting a minimum wage or ensuring a minimum standard of living for the really poor, and in terms of % of average monthly income spent on their services, we still spend MUCH less than people in other big cities globally.
            Yes we all get paid less than our US counterparts, but if you forget about the exchange rate (PPP, to be more accurate) not so much. But people in the US also pay higher taes + social security and medicare. The poor/unemployed in India don’t have any social security/health benefits. You’re right in that there’s a difference across the classes but it’s MUCH bigger for the strata at the socio-economic bottom.

            • fine. so let me change that and say its also the reason i don’t own a Tarun Tahiliani or a Ritu Kumar which the average lifestyle journalist abroad can. I take your point about the difference being much bigger.

          • Just wondering if your supervisor reads these posts ..after autos its mostly about your salary (or lack of it) 🙂

  14. I cant agree more on what you have written. Being in B’lore where a lot of places don’t have proper public trasport or the frequency is poor, we are at the mercy of these auto drivers who literally rip us off on a daily basis. 😦

  15. Okay I do live under rocks…knew nothing abt the meterjam day 😦

    But louveee the idea! And this post!!

    Reallly ..what is it with auto guys n them trying to cheat money off ppl. Really that’s what they do ! Seems like their main motive.

    So during my days in India..I used to take autos every now n then…n man did they give me a hard time! My office to Forum mall…is within the distance of “minimum meter”..4 yrs back..that was 9 RS n those buggers would tell me “ tumba short distance madam..” n demanded 40 for it! like 4 times the cost!!! Imagine!!! If it wasn’t during working hrs (we wld goto forum for team lunches),,thts a distance one can walk up in abt 20-30 mins.

    N then some of them get sooooo mad at u ‘coz ur kannada is accented and u struggle with a few words in their freakin mother tongue. I’m all for learning many languages…but pls I don’t deserve to get interrogated n scolded by the autowallah for my kannada-speaking skills! More than one freakin-bugger has interrogated me abt how many yrs I’ve been in Blr and how I should learn to speak better kannada! Gimme a break !

    N then this one takes the cake… so my sis was full-on preg with her first child(8th mth I think) ..n was visiting in blr. She was getting an auto ride…they had decided a certain amt when she got in..n abt ¾ th way thru’ the guy said he has changed his mind, had a diff place in mind for I’nagar..n that she needs to pay 100 Rs more. She was like “No Ways!”…. Now my sis’ mom calls her Jhansi Raani… she is not the one to stand any such crap..wotever be her situation…n so of crse she didn’t agree…n the guy wldnt bring her home..he drove to a spot that was sooo bloody secluded , that she wont get any kinda transportation frm there..n said “madam if u don’t give 100 Rs..i’m not taking u home” Just imagine!! It was fairly late at nite..[ arnd 9:30, n she shld hv been home by 9] n my sis hadn’t yet got home…so my dad calls her….and she answers saying she is hvg an argument with the autowallah n asking him to drive to the police-station. Well finally my dad just wanted her home safe n was super super worried…so he spoke to the auto-guy…n finally made him n my sis agree tht we wld pay 50 Rs extra n she got home after 10. Just imagine, how nasty they can get!!! N really is that the way their moms taught them to treat a pregnant woman! such a shame!

    But I must sure this story too….so my mom had left her wallet in an auto….n after 2-3 days she got a call from one of her clients sayin that an autowallah had called saying this woman has left her purse in my auto. We took the autowallah’s num, spoke to him n then went to meet him to get the wallet back. All of the 2k odd Rs my mom had in her purse was intact! When my mom gave him some money as a reward for honesty..the guy strictly refused n said that we cld make a donation of the money we wanted to give him. How heart-warming is that!

    I’m sure each one of us can go on n on with horrendous stories abt them! Its such a pity, ‘coz of the zillion rotten apples , the few good ones also get a bad name.

  16. dont get me started with the dilli autowallas..had my share while living there. i argued , i threatened but to no avail

    on a brighter note, today is also ‘sukuday’…

  17. To add, many autowallahs are in unions that are closely linked with fundamentalist organisations, they wield a lot of bully power. My kids’ school has suffered twice as a result of the goondagiri, and most of the almost-vandals and miscreants were autowallahs. They’re not helpless by any means. They could use all that power to improve the system, na? No, they pretend to be victims and take it out on ‘us’.

  18. We have all faced problems with autos/cabs. And while I accept Surabhi’s argument of appreciating the “luxury” of being able to travel in cabs/autos almost daily, that does not give them the right to treat us the way they want to. People then have to resort to other ways to trouble them. For instance, I look at a cabbie as if to indicate I need a cab when I have no intention of taking it.

    And, to think, the auto/cab rates have now risen obscenely in Mumbai 😦

  19. Yep … auto drivers are known to take passengers for a ride. Few years back it was few paisas they took for granted and now its few rupees. Grr ….
    I have been known to fight for every paisa only to be grumbled as a non co-operative passenger.
    I thought the concept of “Pre-paid” autos was nice … they cannot refuse to take you to certain locations and the amount is fixed and a policeman takes note of the auto number / destination. I have not used this service too often, but never had issues with it whenever I used. (except I HAD to demand back change)

  20. I think the main problem is a lack of competition, the rickshaw drivers know that you don’t really have an option, since in some cases the public transport isn’t even available. We saw an interesting situation in Pune a few years ago when 6 seater rickshaws were introduced that operated like mini buses on a per passenger basis. They did cause a lot of pollution and other problems but they gave the rickshaws stiff competition, so we saw an improvement in service all around. Of course after a while the rickshaw unions managed to get the 6 seaters banned so we were back to where we started. But it was nice when we had alternatives. The middle class are the people who desperately need good public transport and have no access to it in most Indian cities.

  21. Not only are u a good writer (expressing what u felt very clearly going deeper at each level of argument) but u did it really honestly. Some people just dig one level deeper and declare victory (like someone would think drivers are poor so this campaign is immoral). Everybody is fed up of inflation, and that doesn’t give anybody the right or reason to steal or loot. If drivers are fed up of price hikes then their union leader should be protesting against fuel hike instead of taking it as an excuse while bribing the authorities to let them continue harassing the public. This campaign is headed in the right direction, may not be in the best of ways due to so many limitations that grips us all. Some people criticize that this wouldn’t work but they themselves are not part of a solution but just a complaining breed. Meter Jam has been really successful to aggregate the public opinion and unity is crucial to tackle this menace. Success will follow sooner. I just say that we don’t need to look at news channels to see if this was successful. If someone just showed his/her anger by not hiring an auto today he/she should consider it as their individual success. I salute all the people who chose hardship over convenience on this #MeterJam day. You will benefit the society at large.

    • thank you, that was an interesting and enlightening read. i didnt know a lot of that. but after reading it i am even more mystified at how they can then afford to snooze in the shade lazily saying they wont go to X place or Y place when they have such huge financial burdens. the OA and I are under tremendous pressure to fulfill our own financial burdens and i dont understand this attitude. its confused me further.

  22. Couple of points, (which I also made on Sur’s FB post and am repeating here), but first off, I agree entirely with Sur and esp. when she says ‘my point is about imagining ourselves as victims in a system that is so heavily biased towards our comforts that its obscene.’

    One: about Ludwig’s article, to which you have linked as a representative sample of those having different views. It makes a very specific critique of a libertarian view of the free market. If you happen to believe that what we need is a completely free market that can set its own price for things depending on demand and supply, then auto drivers are an example of what you get. That specific post is being sarcastic about the utopian belief in free markets. Therefore, to use this as the main arguments against Meterjam is to miss the point entirely.

    Two. You say nothing about the fact that auto drivers alone among all “public transport” providers have to work privately based on govt. rates that are set for them. Unlike BEST, DTC, KSRTC, etc etc, or the metros, they have no budgetary allocations, no govt support, no anything. So they have to take the govts say-so on prices, but they have to bear the burden of every fuel price rise. It’s a ridiculous situation and you haven’t mentioned it (even though I did bring it up in the FB discussion).

    Three. I’m really sorry, but I am having a really hard time not laughing at all the moaning about what a hard time everyone is having of it. (See Alex’s comment above). In effect, who are asking sympathy from? From the auto driver! You are saying to him, with this ‘protest’, ‘Look, I really can’t afford to pay you the ridiculous sums of money you want. Be nice to me, and let’s go by the meter.’

    That sounds fair, right? Except, those meter rates have been unrevised even though the fuel prices have risen several times. So he’s doing what any sensible service provider is doing: looking after his own interests, especially because no one else will.

    Four. Your statement ‘Do the Tatas or Ambanis feel obliged to give me some because I make less than them?’ is specious in the extreme. Your relationship with an autodriver is a client-service provider one. Your relationship with an Ambani is *also* a client-service provider one, with you being the client in both instances. The only difference is that you pay pretty much whatever an Ambani says you must pay but you won’t do the same with an auto driver. Ironic, no?

    Look, like Sur, I am not saying you should pay whatever an auto driver asks (although you *could* do a quick calculation on the basis of fuel prices, distance, labour etc and see if what he is asking is fair, as opposed to what the fare card says, which is usually outdated and delusional). But I don’t see what the big deal about haggling is. It’s a sound free market principle, the very one on the basis of which every one of us here is more prosperous than our parents were. (I’m being cheeky here.)

    So protest by all means, and good luck to you. But also keep in mind than many of you protesting are asking for sympathy (that also translates into action in your favour) where you offer none to those less privileged than you.

    If your protest is real, you will be speaking to the auto driver unions, listening to their point of view and making it a joint protest for fair revisions of fares so that neither they nor you suffers. Instead, what this protest seems to amount to is an request that auto drivers continue to subsidise your already pretty comfortable lives.

    • 1. I disagree that the system is heavily biased towards our comforts. as the middle class service sector i believe we’re the one group that pay for almost everything and get the least benefits. neither rations nor free electricity robbed from the neighbouring poles.
      2. There were more articles I read but I sort of wandered from blog to blog and then couldnt find them again when i wrote the post
      3. this was written before the FB discussion so although i amended a few of the points, its not got everything we discussed. i dont know about Hyd but in Delhi there was a revision barely a couple of months ago that is very fair.
      4. I dont see why its laughable. You and I are not the only people taking autos. There are plenty of people struggling to get by. When my driver has to take his family and young baby somewhere THEY take an auto. Most days I end up letting him take our car because I feel sorry for them. Why should they foot the autowala’s bill when they are barely better off?
      5. and if the autowala can look after his interests, why shouldnt we? its not as though i was born with a silver spoon in my mouth. you are right, we’re better off than our parents. but you also know me from 8 years ago when we had no furniture, ate on the floor and most days could only afford to feed you rajma chawal. i’ve slogged for my money too and i refuse to be apologetic for better circumstances.
      6. I dont have a choice where transport is concerned. Where the ambani goods are concerned, if i dont want them, i dont buy a reliance phone. and the simple way to deal with products being super expensive is to not buy them. watch FMCG companies slash prices when they want to increase sales. how else do I tell the auto wala i disapprove? you’re missing the point of my argument where I am saying that i am okay with prices being raised. I am simply not okay with the arbitrariness. this is about more than money. its about bad attitude.
      7. i take your free market point. most of us (admittedly those who can afford it) are willing to pay more – as long as there is some regularisation. public transport across the world, has some sort of regularisation even if it is more expensive. why should autos be exempted?
      again – this is not about MY comfortable life. i have a car. this is about those also who dont have a choice and cant afford more, which was me, 5 years ago. which is a dozen other middle class people who cant afford but have as much of a right as an auto wala, to a better life. we’re protesting not price hikes but extortion and plain bad attitude. if you mainly drive, you wouldnt encounter it. for those who are dependent on it – its a huge issue. fine – let the govt not decide it. let the damn autowalas do it themselves. set up their own union and meters. but theres got to be some logic, some method, some degree of accountability. it cant be a random – its the middle of the day and its hot so i shall charge Rs 400 to go 1/2 a km. thats just not acceptable

    • Sorry, I disagree. I am not asking for sympathy. I am asking for respect for the custom I give them.
      As for Alex’s comment, I know how stuffy tubes get when they go underground and there is hardly any air circulation. Its the same in any jampacked bus stuck in traffic in hot weather.

  23. Taking the train or bus would be viable solutions in places where such infrastructure properly exists. This is not the case in most cities in India. In Bombay, trains and buses are fairly well connected but they can be very very crowded (nevertheless a good section of population uses them, because negotiating traffic in a private vehicle might not be pleasanter). So it’s not realistic to ask people to eschew autos like one might do in cities which have a well developed transport system. And walking is not possible in some cities either… because distances are too great.

    You are right that it’s not the wealthy that take autos. When I was studying in Hyderabad, I’d take an auto to uni every day because taking public transport meant taking a train (and the train system is nascent there) and then changing to a bus (which looked extremely crowded) with the danger of waiting forever in between so that a 20 minute commuute became a 1 hr something journey. Sure, I recognise that taking an auto was a “luxury” but as a student, I paid for this luxury by cutting down on a lot of thigns and budgeting tightly. So it really used to upset me when the auto guys never returned change or when their meter was majorly rigged (and since I was making the journey every day I could tell). And of course, there was the incessant refusing to go syndrome.

    In Bombay, the auto system is much better. They generally return change and they generally go where you want without a fuss. And I don’t think they are much richer than auto guys in other cities… so it’s a question of discipline.

    As you said, autos and taxis are a public service and so they must abide by the meter and they can’t refuse to take you wehre they want. If they want to raise their rates, they can negotiate that with the government. But it’s a demand and supply thing… I think even they realise that if they raise the rates too much, a whole chunk of thier business will disappear because people will not be able to afford it.

    I’m ok with raised rates; I just hate the haggling, which just adds to stress. If the rates become too high for me, I’ll figure out something else.

    In Hong Kong, where I now live and where I worship the public transport system, in addition to extremely well connected train and bus routes, the taxis are affordable. They go by the meter and they cannot refuse to go. There is the odd occasion where they will refuse or will grumble but basically if you report them to the authority, they are in deep shit and they know it. Moroever, they are extremely professional… before they get a licence they have to know practically every destination in HK, so evne if you don’t know the way, and you show them an address, they will take you there. Again, taking you on the long route is not an option; they don’t want to risk a complaint. Ok, clearly I am in love with the transport system in HK (it’s so good that I rarely use cabs) but my point is, it is not unreasonable to expect public transport (which taxis and autos are) to go by the meter, to go where they are asked and to behave professionally.

    • thank you. and that is my point. why cant we have something like this here? and if we protest, why is it such an issue? I refuse to be apologetic about my own hard earned money.

  24. I agree with the post. I think the problem is the ‘middle class’ who takes the autos, is not organised. It is all about the power of the group. Autowallas have a union and bargaining power which their customers lack. What is the commanality here , that can make people join and form a group? Everyone has their own concerns to take care at a particular moment of time when boarding an auto and once the moment passes , everything is forgotten.So I guess we are here to get fleeced by the government, by the autowallas and by any other entity who wants to take a bite out of our wallets.

  25. I’m not really sure MeterJam worked, because like you say, people who take autos are usually those, who simply need to. But atleast it made us aware that as consumers we too have rights. We are often just at the receiving end, be it bad auto drivers, smelly taxis, bad movies or stale popcorn.

  26. I have been a long-time lurker (love what and how you write) now de-lurking (due to what you have said in this post) 🙂 I TOTALLY agree with each and every word you have said. You echoed my thoughts ! I wish to add my two bits on the topic on my blog where I wish to refer to this post and provide its link. May I ? Oh, and by the way, if I have not mentioned it yet, I love your writing…thanks for writing 🙂

  27. MM, delurking again after a long long gap.I loved this post!! As you said I work my ass off for all the little luxuries I can afford and i so hate being gypped by these b%$$#%. just today an auto guy refused to ferry me from my aunt’s place to mine, giving some convoluted logic of ” ghoom ke jaana padega”. When I noted down his number he threatened me of dire consequences. he backed out only when I raised my voice and told him that he better shut his trap as he knows he is wrong after which he slunk from the scene. Mind you, my house is not off the way nor is it in a place where you dont get a return journey.My cook ( who also works for my aunt) who cannot walk because of her leg ailments also faces the same problem everyday
    Surabhi, they may have their problems but i believe it is solved by “WORKING” and not by playing cards at the corner as I have seen them do.Also, my cook is also from the same SEC as the said auto guy, but she really makes an effort to improve her lot and gypping someone of your own class!!!! Life style cannot be bettered by envying others and exhortion, it is done by making a genuine effort

  28. Thank god I don’t have to deal with this anymore! It was extortion. and it didn’t stop there…just try to get any paper work done and you’d end up face to face with an idiot expecting baksheesh.

    I really hope the meter jam works!

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