Pune: Commuters stepping out of the railway station or bus stand in Pimpri-Chinchwad are always greeted by enthusiastic autorickshaw drivers, ready to take you to your destination, but never by the fare that the meter installed in their vehicle indicates.
They ask for atrocious amounts as fare - sometimes almost the same as a bus ticket to Mumbai - to drop you to your destination, especially if you want to travel to the city’s outskirts.
This system of arbitrarily charging fares exploits the helplessness of the tired commuter and the gullibility of a newcomer to the city.
Team Sakal Times posed as commuters at Vallabhnagar State Transport Bus Stand in Pimpri-Chinchwad to get a first-hand account of the situation. At 8 am, many autorickshaw drivers approached us and demanded Rs 150 for a distance of 5-10 kms - refusing to ply by the meter in all cases.
On being asked to drop till Nigdi, driver Raju Bhalerao, said, “In this area, no rickshaw will ply by meter because it is only used in city areas. The prices are fixed per km. The standard minimum charge is Rs 18 and after 1 km, the charge will be Rs 12 per km,” adding, “We can’t afford to charge those rates.”
Amol, a driver outside the bus stand, quoted Rs 100 till Nigdi, a 7-8 km ride. Though we tried to bargain, he said no rickshaw driver will charge less than Rs 100 till Nigdi.
Some drivers were suggesting better ways to go by bus or to book a private cab online to reach the desired destination. Another driver said that he will charge Rs 200 up to Dehu Road as he won’t get another commuter to come back till Vallabhnagar.
It seemed we were making some headway when a driver named Tope asked us whether we would like to travel by meter or discuss the fare. We picked meter which would have cost us Rs 350 but asked out of curiosity how much he would charge without a meter.
“I will take Rs 400 till Dehu Road, without meter.” Why the extra Rs 50? Tope offered no clear reason for it. He also tried to mislead the team claiming that the distance from Vallabhnagar to Dehu Road is 18 km and that Dehu Road comes after Talegaon.
A cab driver working for an online cab aggregator service offered to drop us for Rs 80 up to Nigdi and Rs 120 up to Dehu Road, by looking at his company’s mobile app.