Sita Ram’s auto-rickshaw is like no other. Passengers love it. Some drivers are even jealous of it. And for the traffic police, it surely is a dream-come-true.
Passengers often look at it, wishing to find it again as it breezes through the city at less than 40 kmph. Drivers come check it out many a time to pick up ideas.
The way Sita Ram, 57, runs it sets it apart from other auto-rickshaws, often in the news for the wrong reasons. Sita Ram’s auto — DL 1R M 8371 — is a ‘model’ public transport; he runs it like an office with strict rules.
He welcomes you with folded hands even if you arrive with a natural frown.
Once inside, the journey would start only after you have read the list of rules pasted neatly behind Ram’s seat. Considering the odds of finding another auto rickshaw, passengers promise almost instantly not to insist on speeding. They are not allowed to pay beggars at traffic signals.
Smoking is prohibited and if a passenger insists, Ram stops driving. “I request them to step out and smoke. I wait till they are done. I give them an option to throw the cigarette and reimburse its cost from me. Most passengers appreciate my discipline. But if someone still forces me to speed, I take them to a traffic cop,” says Ram, dressed in a crisp white uniform with an identity card around the neck. He wears a badge with his name and registration number.
Ram never refuses to go to any destination in Delhi between 9 am and 5 pm. But from 5 pm to 6 pm, he would only ply on the route to his residence in Patparganj.
He tenders the exact change and gives a receipt too. “It costs just `50 per roll and lasts a month. There’s no reason why anyone can’t give receipts. In fact, we have to show the receipts at the transport authority every year when we go to calibrate the meter,” he said.
“I had taken his auto nearly two weeks ago. He welcomed me and agreed to go by the meter. He had his own rules. It’s sad there are not even 10% auto drivers who work like him,” said 42-year-old Surendra Mohan Mishra from Patparganj.
Ram, who started driving an auto in 1991, was initially like any other driver.
But his obsession with doing the right thing made him design his own rules.
“I used to fight for my colleagues’ rights and was disciplined when I worked at a press initially. It was a habit. I decided to retain the values in this profession too,” he said.
He admits it is challenging sometimes to go against the flow but he does it anyway because he doesn’t want a taint of any kind.
“I am asked to get rid of all this. But I feel if I keep doing it, I can contribute to change,” he said.