The steep tariff hike granted by the state government will mean that auto drivers can earn Rs 3,500 to Rs 4,500 more every month, if one goes by the calculations in the Hakim committee report, which forms the basis for the hike.
According to the report, 67 km can be comfortably considered as the average revenue-earning distance of an auto driver in Mumbai, Thane and Navi Mumbai per shift. With a Rs 2.75 hike in the basic per-kilometre fare (from Rs 7.12 to Rs 9.87), an auto driver can earn up to Rs 184.25 more per shift of 11 hours. If the driver works 25 days in a month, he will earn an additional Rs 4,606.25, said activists. Making a conservative estimate, auto drivers can easily earn Rs 3500 more every month.
"The hike has been given primarily on the basis of the consumer price index (CPI), but has the inflation risen so much that at one go they should get a Rs 4500 hike? Do salaried people get such annual increments?" asked Shirish Deshpande, chairperson of Mumbai Grahak Panchayat.
Shashank Rao, assistant general secretary, Mumbai Autorickshawmen's Union, said: "This massive hike has come because earlier the CPI did not get much weightage. This is the first time that the correct CPI is being considered."
Paying more, however, will not end the commuters' misery. "Commuters will be doubly burdened because of this hike. The fare is already up by 25% and auto drivers continue to fleece commuters, about which the transport department is doing nothing," said Paresh Savla, 42, a businessman who lives in Andheri.
Commuters complain that auto drivers demand double and even triple the meter fare at several routes, such as from Kurla west to Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC), Kurla east to Kurla terminus, Bandra east to Bandra terminus and BKC, Andheri to Laxmi Industrial Estate, Four Bungalows and Seven Bungalows.