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Grand Theft Auto (Bangalore, India)

If the subject got you in here, you are in for a big surprise. I am not referring to the motor vehicle theft itself, but about the auto drivers fixing the meters in India (more specifically Bangalore). I understand the fuel price is increasing day by day, but the ingenuity of the auto drivers in "correcting" the meters to reflect the oil price hike not only astounds me, it just leaves me dumbfounded. To be fair to them, some of them don’t bother tinkering with the meters, no, they do something better: when a customer asks to be taken to a particular destination, they calculate the actual meter amount, add to it a random percentage of the original (sometimes the percentage is as high as 150%). So a trip to Marathahalli from Domlur that costs about Rs. 60 suddenly gets quoted at Rs. 150, sometimes even Rs. 200. The mean asking rate is around Rs. 120. The police had taken some measures to ensure this kind of roadside (pun intended) robbery to be prevented. However, I don’t believe they had laid any follow up procedure. For ex. Each auto is supposed to have the name, address and license information of the driver in front of the customer’s seat. However, I find that missing in MOST autos. I am not sure what is the penalty and if police actually tries to check on these guys at regular intervals. These are the few cases of the “fixing” I notices in recent times.

1) The minimum price was hiked from Rs 12 to Rs 14 (Rs 6/KM to Rs 7/KM). Now an auto had the meter set to Rs. 12.50. When I enquired the driver told me the meter was the old one and we need to pro-rate it to the new rates. However, on reaching my destination the amount was actually marginally higher than what I pay regularly. When I questioned the auto driver, the guy started arguing, abusing and creating a scene in front of office. So not only did I have to pay the marginally higher meter charge, I also had to “pro-rate” it to the new rate. This is what I believe happened. He somehow managed to mess the meter to so that the p. 50 came before the 0. The meter jumps from say Rs. 20.00 to Rs. 21.50 and then to Rs. 21.00 and then to Rs. 22.50. He set the meter to one increment behind Rs. 14.00 to Rs. 12.50.
2) Simple tampering: The autos with the electronic instruments meter about Rs. 60 from my home to office. The older meters (non-electronic, analog) meter about Rs. 70 regularly.
3) Skip meters: I and my wife are traveling from the multiplex to home in the auto. The weather outside was just perfect. Typical Bangalore weather. The meter seems to be in order (started at the right rate, seemed to be incrementing right).We suddenly saw the meter at Rs. 33.50 (A minute back it was at Rs. 18.50). I asked the driver if there was a problem. Luckily, he agreed and said “Yes, it skips from Rs. 19.50 to Rs. 30.00” (skipping the whole Rs. 20.00 to Rs. 29.50 series) and said he will ensure he quotes the right rate when we get down (with appropriate corrections). Not only did it set me wondering if he would have been so kind and scrupulous had we not noticed it, but it also messed up the rest of the journey for us as we had our eyes just set on the meter for any further “surprises”.

The other common grievance is the “premium”. The drivers insist on “10 rupees extra sir” or “20 rupees extra” (extra over the metered charge) or “one and a half meter sir” (150% of the metered charge). The corruption is not limited to government organization but is as prevalent on the streets as in the babudom. “Yatha Raja Thatha Praja” (As the ruler, so the ruled/subjects).

For those who have no idea what an auto is, it’s a 3-wheeler and the most common form of hired transportation in India.

1 blog comments below

I’ve reached a point of utter frustration with the level of antagonism, physical threats and mental abuse that I regularly face when dealing with Auto drivers. I’ve had situations where I’ve had an auto driver try to run me over because I refused to pay over the meter, and other situations where they have gathered in groups to physically intimidate me whilst slandering insults. They physically force you to pay what they ask by intimidation and threat of violence.

Visit the website to lodge your complaints on the auto incidents and aggression you have faced from them. If anything is to come from this, we need to become united – we need to form a group who can be a voice of opposition against this injustice. I think the ‘I paid a bribe’ forum is the perfect place to start up such a group.

Forum link:

Recently I approached the Automation Enforcement Centre who gave me quite a bit of background into this issue. They explained to me that more than often the police are rendered helpless, because if they arrest an auto driver, the Auto Union immediately lands on the doorsteps of the Human Rights Commission, imploring that they are being unfairly treated. When such circumstances come up, the Auto Union gets their way because there is absolutely NO VOICE OF OPPOSITION. No voice of the people to notify the Human Rights Commission of the aggression and intimidation of Auto Drivers that we face regularly.

If there is a group of people as well organized as the Auto Union is, they wouldn’t have been able to get away with so much antagonism. After seeing the number of alarms raised on ‘Ipaidabribe’ by those who are explicitly offended by the state of Bangalore’s Auto menace, I am proposing that we form exactly the kind of group that can approach the Human Rights Commission to give them the other side of the story and empower the police where auto drivers are concerned.

The Automation Enforcement Centre further informed me that for issues regarding asking for more than the meter, or taking unnecessarily long routes, if we note down the license number of the auto and submit it to the AEC, they do take action. The first time, they penalize the driver 100 Rs. On the second offense, they penalize by double, and double again on the third. By the forth offense they can be penalized 800 Rs and so forth. This system can work IF we put it to use, but more than that, if we put pressure on the Traffic Police to enforce these laws.

That being said, any form of unwarranted aggression, rudeness, slandering, physical intimidation is a human rights issue and needs to be taken up with the Police and the Human Rights Commission.
I propose that we approach the Human Rights Commission as a united voice regarding this issue, and further discuss how else we can remove the unfair power the Auto Union is exercising to carry out an antagonistic form of transportation.
xavierjevon on Fri Sep 24, 2010 9:02 pm

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