To protect commuters from being fleeced with tampered meters, the state government could make electronic meters mandatory for all auto-rickshaws in the city.
"Electronic meters can permanently solve the problem of meter tampering. The state government is considering making these compulsory," transport commissioner VN More told Hindustan Times on Thursday.
"We have seen it in the case of taxis. Most of them have electronic meters installed and there are hardly any complaints. No system can be foolproof, but we have to consider that electronic meters are tougher to manipulate than mechanical ones," More added.
The transport department has already made it mandatory for new auto-rickshaws and taxis to fit electronic meters. These are digital meters, which show the exact fare and cannot be tampered with easily. Auto-rickshaw drivers, however, have been complaining that these meters are expensive, demand more maintenance and are not entirely tamper-proof.
The transport commissioner rebuffed almost every argument made by auto-rickshaw drivers against electronic meters. "The approximate cost of a mechanical meter is Rs1,500 to Rs 2,000, whereas the cost of an electronic meters is about Rs2,500. Although electronic meters cost a little higher than mechanical ones, they demand lesser maintenance. They are being used in the new taxis without much complaint," More said. "Rickshaw drivers argue that rickshaws are open, unlike taxis, and the meter can easily be damaged by rain and weather. But the position of meters can always be changed; they can be placed near the windshields, or be covered adequately." More also pointed out that electronic meters would ensure that commuters are not fleeced using manipulated tariff cards.
Activists backed the state government's arguments on commuter-friendly electronic meters. "These meters should be sealed to ensure that they can't be opened easily. Also, there should be frequent inspections to ensure that drivers are not playing dirty," said Achintya Mukherjee, consumer activist and member of Consumer Guidance Society of India.