Hindustan Times on Friday decided to test the veracity of the auto unions’ claim that electronic meters can be tampered with as easily as mechanical meters, and discovered that the unions are right – e-meters are not tamper-proof.
HT first took a 4.3 km ride in an auto in which an electronic meter was installed for the purpose. The test was conducted at a spot in Malad (west), near Mindspace.
Then, the electronic meter was rigged — there are two ways in which it can be tampered with — and installed in the same auto, which then covered the same distance in the same spot. The rigged meter showed an acceleration of 1.1km — it showed 5.4 km — for the same 4.3 km distance, and a consequent increase in fare. It rises substantially, by 20%.
In fact, an e-meter can be tampered with without touching the meter itself.
One way to rig it is to attach an external device with two wheels — it looks like a gearbox — to the engine. “The engine is connected to the meter. To accelerate the pulse of the meter, this device is attached to the engine and the meter displays increased distance,” said Thampy Kurien, general secretary, Mumbai Rickshawmen’s Union.
The standard type of device of this kind has two wheels: One with 30 teeth and another with 24 teeth. “The lesser teeth in the wheel, the faster the meter runs,” said Kurien.
There’s one more way of stimulating the meter reading. “A device with a two-way switch and a sealed equipment is connected to the meter. There are two modes on the switch — fast and regular. The meter functions according to the chosen mode,” said Kurien.
While the tampered system with an external gearbox can be traced in a test run conducted by the transport authorities, the one with a switch can’t be traced as the driver can just take off the switch, Kurien said. “Electronic meters don’t serve its main purpose of being tamper-proof.”
According to Kurien, both devices are manufactured in Hyderabad but easily available in the city. While the gearbox-like device is sold for Rs 250, the two-way switch costs between Rs 1,000 and Rs 1,500.