Commuters in Delhi, who rely on auto-rickshaws, will soon not just be battling air pollution but may also have to shell out more money if stuck in a traffic jam.
The Arvind Kejriwal-led Delhi government is considering a plan to introduce new meters in auto-rickshaws for compensating drivers for delays in journeys that are caused by traffic jams while carrying passengers.
The transport department has directed its transport and traffic consultant Delhi Integrated Multi-Modal Transit System Ltd (DIMTS) to prepare a proposal on how the ‘waiting charges’ could be included electronically in the meters installed in the three-wheelers.
Delhi transport minister Gopal Rai said the step is being undertaken to reduce cases of ‘refusal’ by auto-rickshaw drivers, a common complaint against the three-wheeler operators in the Capital.
“One of the biggest reasons identified for refusal is the long-pending demand of auto-rickshaw drivers has been inclusion of waiting charges. I recently met union leaders who flagged their long-pending demand once again. They contend that they generally refuse to cater on routes that witness perennial traffic jams as it takes longer to complete the journey apart from burning extra fuel,” transport minister Gopal Rai said.
“As per existing fare system, if an auto is stuck in a long traffic jam, passenger only pays fare as per distance reading through meter. Auto unions have been demanding from the government to include waiting charge in actual fare if an auto gets stuck in traffic jam,” Rai said.
The minister added that such concerns have been addressed in several cities abroad.
“DIMTS has been directed to prepare a proposal on how it could be implemented technologically and submit it in 15 days,” Rai said.
The minister, however, claimed that none of the auto drivers would be allowed to go scot-free if they try to harass commuters during the road rationing drive next month. Several civil defence volunteers and transport department personnel would be on the streets to act against the errant drivers, Rai claimed.
The transport department has also decided to issue 10,000 new auto permits apart from simplifying rules for seeking loans for buying three-wheelers. The additional permits are within the 100,000 cap set by the Supreme Court on the number of three-wheelers that could ply in Delhi.
“We recently had a meeting with some banks. Three banks — PNB, IndusInd and State Bank of Bikaner & Jaipur — have agreed to grant loans to new drivers at a simple interest of 13-14%. The criteria for granting loans have also been simplified. This would be a huge relief for auto drivers as they are currently forced to depend on private financiers for loan,” Rai said.
Around 82,000 auto-rickshaws ply in the capital currently.