Auto drivers

Nearly ripped off

1:35 PM

I say nearly, because this girl's got attitude ;-)

A year ago the city of Bangalore, installed several "Auto pre-paid booth" across the city in an effort to reduce the number of ripped off customers, especially in touristic areas. Those booth existed for the longest time at the airport and in the train stations and the governement decided to open some more along MG Road, and in front of the main shopping malls where touts and dishonest drivers used to hang out to fleece their preys.
As a foreigner (ok I hate this term because I'm more like a non-indian resident), I was happy to see those. Getting an Auto to go back home after a shopping day or a trip to central Bangalore has always been difficult. Drivers who a) accept to go where I want b)do not try to charge me 10 times the price are a rarity these days.

There is one of those booth in particular that I use often: the one in front of "Garuda Mall" And after a year of nearly using the booth once or twice a week to go home I know the price of the fare very well : 18 rupees!

Now just for those not familliar with pre-paid booth, this is how it works : you queue and tell the police officer, or offical there where you want to go, and in some places you may need to pay a 1 rupee service charge at that time. The person will look on the computer for your destination and the tarrif and write a slip where the license plate number of your driver is noted down as well. You then hop in, and at the end of your fare pay the amount written on the slip to the driver...simple and effective.

Yesterday though I read in the paper that some booth accross town were corrupted including one at one of the stations. Police men were getting bribes or a compensation for closing their eye on dishonesty, and even let driver write down their own tarrifs on the slip.
And sadly enough, I saw it happen to me TODAY!!!!!! I was in town to buy food for my dog and drop a cheque to the bank, and decided to walk to Garuda mall to take the auto back home at the prepaid booth. A Police woman was keeping this one. When I told her where I wanted to go, instead of asking the first auto in line, she asked all the guys present about who wanted to pitch in...
First illegal act which had me suspicious right away. Then she handed the notepad to one of them who wrote his details himself, and didn't consult the official fare book but simply wrote that the fare was costing 25 rupees!
To which I immediately reply with: "Since when is it 25?" Looking straight in the eye of the police officer who tried not to loose face announcing that it was the price, and to what I answered: "Yeah right last week it was 18, and it was so for the past year too".
Still staring at her straight in the eye. Suddenly she felt very embarrassed as I proved to her that I was actually living here and knew how things worked. The guy who wanted to rip me off with the approval of a law officer refused to take me.
Another one took me on the meter though, and the price was indeed 18 and the guy was friendly enough.

This another typical incident in India, exept I'm getting pissed off, first because people assume that foreigners can be ripped off. And then for assuming that anybody with a light skin and blue eye is a foreigner who necessarly has money and can be ripped off. And that even a law officer will not defend.
If you ask me this is pure racism. And now I often wonder what will happen the day I will apply for citizenship, which I will be able to do in a few years? I'm a PIO (person of indian origin) due to my marriage to an Indian citizen, and will have not much problem claiming indian citizenship should I wish to. But will the people of india take it? How will they digest the fact you can be Indian when you have a light skin, blue eyes and brown hair?

I feel like I will constantly have to fight to get the same rights as my hubby just because they like to think that I can be discriminated against my skin colour so easily. People look at me wierdly when I say I'm my husband's wife, contest my name as it is written on his passport...what will happen should I ever have an Indian passport? Will they try to prove me wrong? Or will they look embarassed at trying to make my life impossible when they finally learn I bear the same nationality?

There is one thing this country need to learn, and that thing is to learn to respect anybody whatever their skin colour, nationality, gender, caste or religion. And maybe not to make assumption solely based on physical appearance.We are a long long way to go.


  1. Pre paid is another goof up by the govt- my friend calls it a Joint Venture of Govt and Taxi union :)

    . At Dadar station, they have started a prepaid booth. Earlier by metered taxi, Dadar to Malad use to cost 220 Rs for the same distance, Pre paid taxi fare was 360 Rs... and now with current petrol rate increase, its costing 460 Rs.( even though taxi's do not ply on Petrol ). Pre paid is nothing but a way of Looting People Legally.

  2. I totally agree, the best thing to do in places were there is a potential for rip off is to walk away a short distance and call a taxi or auto that is passing by, they are more honest than the goons crowding themselves in front of malls, and stations. The prepaid booth system I was writting about above in Bangalore flopped big time. Compared to Bangalore I am having a much easier time getting Autos that will turn the meter and not ask for extra really. They aren't perfect in Mumbai but they are the more decent of the lot, Delhi being the worst place I had to deal with Autos.


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