Ramratan Jawda was excited to be at the Simhastha Kumbh in Ujjain, more than 500 km from his hometown Jodhpur. But before he could enjoy the sight of the holy Kshipra, decorated akhara marquees and historical temples, an e-rickshaw driver gave him a rude shock by charging Rs 160 for barely a kilometer trip in the mela area.
Jawda is not alone. Many of the thousands of pilgrims arriving at the month-long fair are being fleeced by the auto drivers.
While the officials say e-rickshaws are available in the mela area, stretching for over 5 km, for Rs 10-20, they are charging pilgrims anywhere between Rs 50 and Rs 100 per kilometer, sometimes even more.
About 500 e-rickshaws have been deployed at the Simhastha venue to ferry pilgrims for short distances. The administration has banned all other mode of transportation in the crowded area for easy movement.
Jawda told HT that he and his family were charged Rs 160 to travel from Dutt Akhara to the camp of Swami Avdheshanand, just a km away. “I even enquired with two other e-rickshaws, but they seemed to have some understanding between them as no one was ready to charge less,” he said.
Another pilgrim, Shashikant Jha from Indore, said he had to engage an e-rickshaw for his elderly father. Jha said he was charged Rs 45 for taking them from one camp to another camp.
After numerous complaints of overcharging by e-rickshaws, the administration has now pasted the fare chart on the vehicles’ windshields. About 60 rickshaws have also been either challaned or impounded, officials said.
Simhastha in-charge minister Bhupendra Singh said action was being taken against the erring auto drivers. “We are committed to ensuring proper facilities for pilgrims. Auto drivers should also think that charging unreasonable fares would bring a bad name to the city of Ujjain,” he said.