In absence of fare meters, auto drivers overcharge passengers

Srinagar: Failure of authorities to install fare meters in autorickshaws in the summer capital is taking heavy toll on passengers.

With authorities stopping inter-district traffic at city outskirts, most of the autorickshaw drivers are charging exorbitant rates from passengers.

The passengers complain that authorities have failed to act against the erring autorickshaw drivers who charge exorbitant fares.

Almost all autorickshaws in Srinagar have failed to comply with the directions by authorities to install meters and charge passengers as per its reading.

Passengers end up paying anywhere between Rs 100 to Rs 150 for three-km distance. The situation gets worse in evenings when most of the public mini buses go off the roads.

“After recent snowfall, the autorickshaws charged Rs 100 for just three kilometers, taking undue advantage of situation arising out of snowfall, complaint commuters,” said Abdul Hamid a passenger.

“Autorickshaw drivers charge at their will knowing that the passenger is hard pressed and without any option. The unreliable public transport is being exploited by these autorickshaw drivers,” said Shabir Ahmad of Khanyar.

At few occasions, traffic police city has seized some autorickshaws found without installation of meters. But, as per passengers, the initiative didn’t continue.

Passengers said most of the time fare varies between Rs 20 to Rs 40 from one auto-rickshaw to another for same route.

“One autorickshaw charges Rs 70 from Regal Chowk to Dalgate, another Rs 50 and some other will ask you to pay Rs 100 for this same route,” said Bilal Ahmad, a commuter.

Autorickshaw owners give their own reasons for not installing the meters. An autorickshaw driver said earlier the authorities had issued strict orders for installation of the meters “but gradually the spirit of that order died down.”

Another driver said that people don’t press for the meter, “so I have not installed it.”

The drivers also have another reason for charging “high rates” from the passengers. “There has been steep increase in fuel prices, hence charging more the passengers is natural,” a group of auto-drivers said.

Superintendent of Police (Traffic) city Muzaffar Ahmad said that violators are being penalised under law. “We will also launch a special drive to ensure only government-approved rates are charged from passengers by autorickshaw drivers,” he said while replying to a query. Regional Transport Officer Kashmir Sajid Yehaya Naqash said that meters have been calibrated and drive to install them would be intensified.

“Action under law will follow regarding complaints of charging exorbitant rates,” he added.

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