Pune: The exorbitant amount that the autorickshaws have been charging the commuters has always been an issue. One of the primary means of transport for short distances, autorickshaw drivers have been demanding increases in the basic fare as per the inflation. The meters calculate the fares adding up the base fare at Rs 18, after which a charge of Rs 1 for 100 metres and road traffic compensation are added to it.
At night time, the meters are calibrated, to begin with, a base charge of Rs 22. These charges include the fuel cost, labour and profit for the auto driver. But this apparently, is not enough for some auto drivers. As there are suggestions to start prepaid auto-hubs at major passenger points in the city, Sakal Times checked the current situation of auto fares in Swargate.
Swargate is a major spot where commuters travelling within the city as well as from other cities arrive. Many of the buses from destinations like Sangli, Kolhapur, Goa, Ratnagiri etc, reach Swargate early in the morning after travelling throughout the night. "I prefer travelling during the night as it saves time, there is less heat and you can sleep throughout the journey," Omkar, a regular long route commuter said.
As a private bus from Ratnagiri reached Swargate and halted under the recently constructed flyover, almost 7 to 8 autorickshaw drivers crowded the exit gate of the bus. As soon as passengers alighted, they were asked their destination and escorted to the drivers' respective autos, without explicitly declaring the fares.
When some passengers demanded to know if they will be charged by the meter, the auto drivers quoted an arbitrary figure. Some, who were tired after a long journey, or had families with children with them, agreed reluctantly without much hassle. Some refused to pay extra fare and waited for an auto which will charge by the meter, which may take anywhere between a few minutes to half an hour.
When the reporter approached an auto driver near the bus, posing as a passenger, asking to go to Vitthalwadi on Sinhagad Road, the auto driver said that he will charge Rs 180 for the ride. Refusing the first auto driver, when we approached the next driver, he said that he will charge Rs 150, and the third said that he will charge Rs 30 above the meter fare.
One of the drivers, who was going to pick up school children in the Vadgaon area, agreed to ply by the meter as he was travelling in the same direction. When the reporter hired the auto and reached the destination, the meter charge was Rs 73.
When asked, why the auto drivers charge so exorbitantly, the driver said, "We try to get the day's earning through these early rides. Then we don't have to do smaller trips in the daytime traffic," he said. "We want to earn a living too and the fares that we get by the meter barely cover our expenses and the empty return is an added burden. We have no option but to charge what we can afford."