Auto/taxi mafia is taking a toll on the drivers
Auto strikes are now an integral part of this highly unorganised transport industry. Every other month, some or the other city in India experience this blackmail from either the auto-rikshaw or taxi drivers. Here, the moot point of debate is not whether these auto and taxi drivers are ethical in their deeds or are they taking the entire nation to ransom. The point here is why on the first place are they calling for such strikes and that too so very frequently?
The answers for these two questions that is the biggest cause of concern among auto and taxi drivers. It’s on the account of one issue that has been lingering since years – fare hike vis-à-vis fuel price hike. The recent decision of implementing a GPS based fare meter has resurfaced the entire debate all over again. The on-going strike again raises the issue on how the feasibility of such instrument especially after the fact that the cost of such installation would be borne by the auto drivers. If one goes by the entire business model of this highly unorganised industry, almost all apprehensions would get answered.
Despite the price of auto being fixed by the Supreme Court (as per 1997 SC order, only 55,000 autos can run in the city), an auto in Delhi doesn’t cost less than Rs 6,00,000. As the number of auto rikshaw are fixed that can ply on the roads, a new entrant in the market has to first buy an old rikshaw, deposit the same with the officials and they would be given the permission to buy a new vehicle. The entire process cost him nothing less than Rs 2-3 lakhs. Even after obtaining the permission, he needs to swims through sea full of loan sharks. Most of the agencies that run as auto financers are actually small group of people trying to legalise their black money. During the purchase of permit, the financiers get the vehicle registered against the name of the auto drivers – who are paid almost nothing – and thus get rid of their black money and also get to own fleets of auto/taxis. And what the auto rikshaw drivers gets in return is a salary to the tune of few thousands. And here is why, these people are often seen protesting against any thing that kills their source of income or ask or any investment on a vehicles that is virtually owned by someone else!
It’s estimated that 80 per cent of all autos running in Delhi are under the grip of auto finance-mafia.
What is required is a new set of reforms for this industry. To start with, the entire industry has to be organised. The entire licensing system needs a overhaul wherein, the transfer of vehicles are made stringent which leaves very little scope for any dummy transfers and like. The capping on number of autos should be immediately removed, as it is the case of radio taxis where there is no capping for the same. Next the government should have fair price outlets for exchange of old vehicles with facilities to provide the new entrants with finance and loan facilities. Moreover, the government can start a telephonic booking service call center for auto booking, as in the case of radio taxis, that would eventually allow the market dynamics to decide the price and price slabs. Above all, the government should do away with auto stands (right now there are around 130 auto stands in Delhi), which again lead to cartelisation and small auto regional mafias. And finally, licences and recoginzation to the auto drivers through official registration, where in they need to register the details of the vehicles and the owner. This desk would further make sure that the drivers are paid a minimum salary and auto is being constantly upgraded as per the requirements.Obviously, these policies wont remove all the problems, but would surely make the drivers less hostile, more hospitable and would allow them to have better lifestyle with decent living.