When chief minister Prithviraj Chavan told auto unions that the state has decided to make electronic meters mandatory for all autos, it was hailed as a tough stand against cheating auto drivers that would resolve commuters’ woes. But the ground reality is different.
To begin with, there’s no deadline in sight, which suggests that the state and the CM, who heads the transport department, don’t have a plan in place to implement the decision.
Then, the plan could hit a roadblock in the form of a court case. The city’s biggest auto union, controlled by NCP leader Sharad Rao, is threatening to go to court. Once the matter is in court, it will take a while before anything can happen.
Most importantly, the electronic meter itself is not tamper-proof. The state claims that the e-meter is tamper-proof.
Pointing to e-meters being used in taxis, the state says of the 19,859 e-meters installed, it has received complaints only of five meters.
“The moment anybody tries to rig an e-meter, it will display an error message on the screen and stop working,” said an RTO official, requesting anonymity.
Auto unions beg to differ. Thampy Kurien, general secretary of the Mumbai Rickshawmen’s Union, said: “E-meters work on the pulses it receives from the engine. Even if you don’t tamper the e-meter, there are ways to induce pulse in this meter from outside. The Supreme Court, while giving directions about introducing new technology for meters, has said that it should be tamper-proof.”
“We have showed the government that e-meters can be tampered with. If it still enforces this decision, we will move court,” said Sharad Rao, general secretary of the Mumbai Auto Rickshawmen’s Union.
The bottomline: There’s no relief in sight for the weary suburban commuter. What Subhash Jain, a regular auto commuter, suggests is perhaps the best answer to the city’s auto problems. “Instead of changing meters, the government should strengthen its existing mechanism of checking rigged meters. There should be regular drives against auto drivers and penalties for rigging meters should be high,” he said.