Auto-rickshaw fares in Delhi may soon be hiked by up to 35%
According to the proposed new fares, it will cost Rs 25 for the first kilometre, followed by Rs 10 of each subsequent kilometre. At present, the auto fare is Rs 25 for the first two kilometers and Rs 8 for every subsequent kilometre.delhi Updated: Jul 24, 2018 23:48 IST
Auto-rickshaw rides in Delhi are set to become more expensive with chief minister Arvind Kejriwal giving an in-principle approval to a new fare slab structure on Monday during a meeting with representatives of various auto drivers’ unions, according to officials familiar with the developments.
Though the Delhi government will set up a committee to formalise the new fares and get them approved by the State Transport Authority (STA), Kejriwal told about 500 auto-rickshaw drivers that they will soon be able to charge Rs 25 for the first kilometre, followed by Rs 10 of each subsequent kilometre. At present, the auto fare is Rs 25 for the first two kilometers and Rs 8 for every subsequent kilometre.
This will amount to an increase of about 35% for a distance of five kilometres and nearly 30% for a distance of 10 kilometres (see box) . Fares were last increased in May, 2013 by the then Congress government led by Sheila Dikshit.
Delhi has 98,000 registered auto-rickshaws, and their drivers are considered a strong vote bank for the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the national Capital. During the 2014 and 2015 assembly elections, they had campaigned extensively for the party.
Transport minister Kailash Gahlot confirmed that the Delhi government had considered the demands of auto-rickshaw unions that had agreed to hike fares. “Yes, there will be a fare revision soon. The government will formally set the new fare slabs through a committee. The process of appointing the committee has already started. It will submit its report within a month. After this, the recommended fares will be sent to the STA for final approval,” Gehlot said.
The committee will also decide if waiting rates need to be added to the fare in addition to the distance covered. The file will also be sent to Delhi lieutenant governor (L-G) Anil Baijal for approval. Though the government and the L-G have differed on various schemes, officials in the government said they were confident the recommendations would go through in light of a recent Supreme Court order that, they said, made it clear that governance issues other than land, public order and policing were the government’s jurisdiction.
The Kejriwal government had attempted to revise fares once in 2016, but the plan was rolled back after auto-rickshaw unions opposed an increase in fares since they were facing fresh competition from app-based taxi aggregators.
During Monday’s meeting with the chief minister, several auto unions demanded a fare hike citing an increase in CNG rates and higher maintenance cost. “Around 500 auto drivers were called by the CM to discuss the fare system. Ninety per cent of those present agreed to increasing the rates, while the remaining opposed it saying they would lose more business as cab aggregators could reduce their minimum rates further. The CM went with the majority and told them that the rates will be revised,” said Upender Singh, treasurer of Aapka Apna Auto Taxi Union, which includes 500 drivers appointed as ‘in-charge’ by AAP at auto stands across the country. A representative of the union did not give exact figures on how many members it has.
Soon after the government agreed to the demands of auto drivers, taxi unions also demanded that fares be increased. “The rate of economy radio taxis was also last increased in June, 2013. If auto fares are hiked, we demand our rates go up too. At present, an economy radio taxi costs Rs 12.5 per kilometre. Business has taken a hit after the boom of taxi aggregators in the city,” said Inderjeet Singh, president of Rajdhani Parivahan Panchayat.
Experts said a hike in fares may not necessarily be a good thing since it could put passengers off autos. “People now opt for auto-rickshaws only for short distances or to travel to places where other modes such as metro or Ola/Uber (cabs) are not available. The government should do a fare elasticity demand study for deciding the rates. And if rates are increased, then it should ensure drivers do not refuse any passenger and that they all go by the metre,” said Sanjay Gupta, head of the department, transport and planning, at the School of Planning and Architecture.
Bharatiya Janata Party leader Vijender Gupta and Congress’s Ajay Maken said pricing for autos must follow a uniform policy to ensure all transport — metro, e-rickshaws and auto-rickshaws — coexist.
“Interest of auto drivers and users should be taken care of equally. The policy should be created with balanced approach,” said Gupta, who is also the lead of the opposition in the Delhi assembly.
Maken said a fare hike is not the only way to encourage autos. “It is not only the fare that concerns the drivers and general public; the government has to take holistic view and also consider the need of different segments of users,” he said.
First Published: Jul 24, 2018 08:30 IST