A surprise check conducted on 150 autorickshaws plying in the western suburbs on Friday and Saturday has revealed how rampantly passengers are fleeced: 97 autorickshaws — nearly 65% — were found to have tampered meters.
Officials from the Andheri Regional Transport Office (RTO) decided to carry out the inspection after several passengers complained about faulty and tampered meters, which increase passenger fares tremendously.
The 15-hour check began at 8pm on Friday and ended at 11am on Saturday. Seven inspectors from Andheri RTO inspected autorickshaws plying in the stretch from Bandra to Dahisar.
Each inspector flagged down an autorickshaw and asked the driver to take him to a particular location. During the journey, the inspectors checked the autorickshaw’s meter with their hand-held prototype miniature meter and compare the tariffs displayed on the two meters.
On an average, inspectors found that the meter was running 40-60 paise faster per kilometre.
“Autorickshaws plying in Bandra, Marve, Malwani, Jogeshwari and Borivli had the maximum number of faulty meters,” said B Kalaskar, deputy RTO, Andheri (western suburbs) who headed the team.
A fine of Rs1,500 was imposed on errant autorickshaw drivers. They were asked to pay the fine when they visit the RTO.
The autorickshaw union, however, alleges that officials are allowing the real culprits to go scot-free. “Officials should understand that these meters are tampered at the centres where they are calibrated. The RTO should also take action against them,” said Shashank Rao, leader of the Mumbai Autorickshaw Men's Union.
Sources in the transport department said that these results could help officials demand that autorickshaws convert to electronic meters, a move the union has been opposing for a long time.