Wednesday, August 11, 2010

MeterJam or Auto jam – My thoughts

Photo courtesy - The Frame
Citizens from Mumbai started this campaign against autowallas (they call it Meter Jam). This caught up and citizens of various other places including Namma Bangalore have joined hands.

Basically it’s a one day strike against the autos by the citizens.

Interestingly I have some pleasant experiences with autos of Bengaluru. Let me share!
  • I had to take a bicycle from my home to a stadium (around 15 km). It was a Saturday evening and time was around 5pm. It was cloudy and I dint dare to ride the bicycle. I approached an auto. He readily agreed. He even suggested (upfront) that he will take some inside roads avoiding the main signals and police checkpoints. He was kind enough to explain the reason – The cycle actually does not fit in the auto completely, some 6 inches comes out and police can fine him.  He did not ask for a single paisa more than what the meter showed.
  • I was going home from MG Road (around 12 kms). The first auto I approached, agreed to drop me. I checked the address of the driver (pasted on the back of driver seat). He was from Banaswadi (the other extreme of Bangalore). Half way through, he got a phone call. He stopped the auto in the next signal. Explained me that he has to go home urgently. He said he would find me a replacement and put me on the other auto. He got me another auto. That’s not the end. He said sorry for dropping me half way, and did not take a rupee from me. What more can anybody expect?
  • There are autos who drive an accident victim to the nearest doctor, without expecting any rupee. How many would do this with their cars?
  • In Bengaluru and in my native town, some autos offer free service for pregnant\about-to-deliver-ladies. Neighbors with cars do not offer to help!

There are definitely instances when the drivers demand more, meters hop, drivers say no to some place, they ask more when it rains etc.  But let’s not generalize that autowallas are bad.
Their reasoning for saying no to a place is also valid at-times.
  • Some places are very clogged. Autos have to spend lot of time with one passenger with no additional benefits. More expense in terms of fuel usage.
  • Water clogged places (especially during rains) are avoided. I have seen auto drivers, drenched in rain, pulling the auto in a rain clogged road. And the passenger is sitting happily inside without even bothering to help. Its equal to slavery!
  • The destination could be too far from their homes. And they may have to come back home empty.
  • If you approximately know the distance, even if the meter hops, you can just pay the correct amount and get down. Autos fear policemen.
My point is – a strike by citizens on one day will not solve any of the problems. You may deny the poor auto family of a day’s income. But will things change?
Will they start saying yes to any location? Will the meters get fixed? Hmm…I doubt. Probably their anger would increase against citizens.
  • Many of us know where the meters are tampered and how. Prevent this kind of shops and improve the meter technology.  
  • Get a citizen movement to get shared auto concept in place. I think Hyderabad has adopted this well.
  • Probably there are other better workarounds....
There would be opposition for all these too, but isn’t it the right way to go.

We are not attacking the problem correctly.
Focus on the base of the issue and not the tip.

PS - I heard from a friend that they are a service industry and should provide good service like a bank. Just a thought on this - If banks can deny loans (without providing proper reason), why can't autos deny you the service. 


Raghavendra said...

Super sir, agreed with all of ur points. We can't generalise the things. Also this would not be a proper solution to tackle the problem. Only thing I would say is if most people dont use the autos on one day and if at all they use the Public services (BMTC buses). Then there will be less pollution / traffic for that day.

Anonymous said...

looks like you are very lucky. i know there are few honest auto wallas, they will suffer for a day, but did you think because of a major auto wallas, lakhs of people suffer everyday?

akshay said...

not every1 is as lucky as u manju sir.. regards

Lost in thoughts said...

@Akshay and Anonymous -
The whole point is not about being lucky. The point is what are we trying to achieve. One day of not boarding an auto is not the solution to the problem...
I also have acknowledged that there are problems...this is NOT NOT NOT the solution

Heera said...

In Bangalore, what i have seen and experienced is that majority of the autowallas take advantage of the situation and charge more. It is a rare case when they agree to go by meter. If they agree to go by meter, then the meter is tampered. This is not generalizing, this is what almost every auto guys do.

This might not be the solution for the problems we are facing with the autowallas. But this can be taken as a satyagraha; a simple way to show protest.

G.R.HATHWAR said...

Most of the Auto drivers belong poor and uneducated class.I see lot of old people who are above sixtiees and seventies driving autos.They have to drive the auto in Bangalore roads,certainly make them rude and impatient.Having said that majority of the accidents are caused by auto drivers.Majority of the meters are tampered.Therefore they have lost the sympathy of the public.Even call centre drivers and taxi drivers are in the same category.Unless they gain the confidence of public they can never gain sympathy from commuters.Best way is to have good leaders who can manage this auto association with human face.They should have radio controlled auto systems in the similar manner as EASY CAB/MERU CAB.

Lost in thoughts said...

I really hope that things change because of this. But to be honest, I saw autos getting filled near my bus stop even today.

MD said...



Raghu Ganesh said...

Hi Manju,
Nice article and u r spot on. Things will not change with such kind of "FM Radio" stunts. If auto drivers feel tht they can demand and get away with higher fares, what about the patrons who refuse to walk and entertain this kind of robbery ?

One solution is to simply open more pre-paid counters across the city and the strict implementation of the same..

Its a funny scene even today at cantonment railway station in the morning - with not a single auto in the pre-paid counter and the drivers parking the vehicle outisde and canvassing among the people standing in the pre-paid queue.. The cop stands near the counter looking the other way proving to us who all gets paid in this business.. If the pre-paid system can work very well at city station, why cant it work in at Cantonement ? Why can they start one in KR Puram which has emerged as a major train stop at Bangalore ?

Raghu Ganesh said...

Regarding share autos - I dont know if u mean an auto being shared by more than 1 person...

In Chennai share autos work very well - they are of a bigger size. They have bigger seats and 8-10 people can be seated. They work for an amount equal to or slightly higher than the local bus charge.

Chris said...

I got the same views, and I wrote about it here. Your post seems to have hit the nail right on the head.

Lost in thoughts said...

I knew that there were alternate solutions other than what is mentioned in blog... And here they come.
@Chikkappa - Radio controlled autos - is a good option.

@Raghu - Prepaid centers in city centers could also be the way to go.
Shared autos are the same as you described. Also they are point 2 koramangala to mg road etc.

S.R.Ayyangar said...

I don't know if Meter Jam had any impact. All the autos were plying as usual with passengers. After all from next day , one has to be at the mercy of auto driver!

Raghu Ganesh said...

Manju, share autos operate between 2 points - like u said - say From MG Road to Koramanagala via Vivek Nagar..
Now I can board it from MG Road and get down at Vivek Nagar.. some one can board it from Vivek Nagar and go to Koramangala.. u pay for the distance u travelled at the end of ur trip.. I feel that this system wud definitely work in Bangalore since the main issue in Bangalore is the absolutely pathetic "last mile connectivity"..
If I want to catch a Volvo but I need to walk at least 2 kilometres before I reach the main road.. Now if theres a share auto from near my street, I can pay 5 bucks and come to airport road easily..
No METRO can improve the last mile connectivity.. Any solution in Bangalore need to address this issue.. I think share autos can go a long way in this regard.. and the biggest advantage is that the travellers are not fleeced at all.. One just pays the bus charge..

Shrinidhi Hande said...

irrespective of its success or failure, meterjam is all about driving home a point- that consumers also have a voice and can strike if need be. Even if a small percentage of otherwise errant drivers get the message, then the initiative is a success.

Of course there's a point from Auto drivers' perspective too. May be a good idea for autos to display their preferred locations (how mumbai taxis have Bandra, Panvel etc written on their back...

Ana_treek said...

I think if the auto drivers are polite, people won't mind shelling out extra cash

Lost in thoughts said...

If some positive action is seen on the roads, movements like MeterJam can gain momentum...

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