Auto drivers

Who is the worst

2:36 PM

A few days ago, my blogger fellow and author of the travel site “About India” asked in a poll which city in India has the worst Auto drivers.

My reply was Bangalore, because in the 8 years I’ve been in India they went from decent to really bad, the degree of badness being proportional to the proposed and granted hike in basic fares.
In the current of the last year they went from 14 rupees for the minimal fare to 18, and the drivers not only try to cheat you more, they also refuse to take you to even more place than before. When the fare was 10 rupees for the first 2km back in the days was when I had the least problems getting where I wanted, that too on the meter.

Now that I live in Mumbai it is a HUGE relief to not have to deal with  all the pathetic excuses the Garden city drivers usually came up with to or not take you anywhere: too much traffic, too far, too near…Or the reason they chose to try to extort more money before you even stepped into the Auto: Traffic jam, the looming dark clouds about to bring rain, night fare (at 6pm yeah right!), have to come back empty, meter broken (assuring you the inflated fare they quote is the legal and correct one)…to the reason why you need to pay extra upon arrival: extra service tax, too much time waiting in traffic, “I’m poor you are rich”, no change.
From my experience in Mumbai, very few drivers refuse to go somewhere, and when they do refuse it’s during rush hour, where they would prefer a longer or shorter ride, it’s still annoying of course but the times I had issue after 6pm, I usually always found one ready to take me after 5-6 requests, and it never took more than 15 minutes. Back in Bangalore when i was working as a French teacher on occasion I once asked about 20 Autos all refused to take me home, so I ended up walking the entire 6 kilometres back to my place.
Drivers in Mumbai tend to go on the meter without discussing far more easily than in Bangalore too, only once while stuck in Bandra with my cousin, her husband and our two respective daughters were we asked to pay 200, which isn’t even more than the metered fare to go back home anyway as on another occasion the guy took me on the meter and I paid 190 rupees, so clearly 10 rupees extra on a long drive with an Auto’s performance being tampered by the load of 5 people in it isn’t such a huge cheat.
Another thing I highly appreciate in Mumbai is that drivers almost always have the change, even if the change is just 2 rupees, on occasion I just walked away from the vehicle not really minding about the one rupee change only to have the driver call after me to give it to me, only once or twice did the driver not have the change, but said so after emptying all his pockets and then say “Sorry ma’am no change” in Bangalore they just take whatever money you give them and wheel off, no sorry no nothing, they almost take for granted that if the fare is 22 rupees and you give them 30 that you are gifting them the balance, and if you give them the exact change they try to beg you to pay an addition 10 rupees for all the reasons mentioned above.

Now of course the Mumbai papers have put into light the fact that Auto Drivers in the city aren’t honest, as apparently about 95% of them tampered their meter replacing the official dented gear with one with less dents spinning faster, but they also noted that the tampered gear was the same standard cheat gear for all drivers. So yes they cheat, but it’s 95% of them cheating you with the same illegal hike in fare, it’s not them quoting random amounts based on the look of the patron. And in all fairness, Mumbai’s standard fare is lower then the one in Bangalore too, and god know the Maximum City is getting far more traffic jams than the Garden City. Where I live right now, it takes about 3 kilometres to reach a certain supermarket and commercial center I like to visit, the fare is always between 18-20 rupees depending where I picked up the Auto, back in the old days when the minimal fare was 14 in Bangalore, and that I was also living at about 3 kilometres from the mall I was paying around 21-25 depending where I would pick up the auto. And that was a few years back, Bangalore has since then hiked up their legal fare as stated above, so it nearly takes me a cool 30 bucks to cover that distance there.  And that is when they used to agree to take me on the meter, because as I said that has become less and less easy to get.

In a way this is good that Mumbaikars are starting to crib about autos now, because hopefully it will prevent the cheating to escalate further, but then maybe it is true that in general drivers in this city are a bit more professional as well. I remember the first time I lived in the city in 2004 it was as easy to get an Auto as it is now, the fare is maybe slightly higher, I don’t remember any need for a conversion table back in the days, the price of the fare was one rupee less than what the meter stated or something.
So is that simply due to the fact that in a huge city like Mumbai, where people are pressed for money to simply afford a hint of a life (decent or not) it would be simply too stupid to risk loosing a fare by trying to extort more money or refusing to go somewhere? My guess is that it has something to do with it.

So while Mumbai has been able to maintain a certain decent standard of service, Bangalore has even managed to outdo Chennai in the race for the worst city to get an Auto, I have less experience with Delhi, but from what I heard they are still so far ahead in the game when it comes to crappy service.

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