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Freedom from (auto)cracy?

Govt plans small cabs as an alternative to autorickshaws and to provide a safe and low-cost travel mode to Delhiites. But will it be a relief for commuters or spell more chaos on roads? Neelam Pandey reports.

delhi Updated: Jan 25, 2012 23:21 IST
Neelam Pandey
Neelam Pandey
Hindustan Times

Tired of haggling with rogue autorickshaw drivers who charge exorbitant fares or sometimes refuse to go when you are getting late to catch a train or flight?

An alternative could be at hand in the form of small cabs that the Delhi government plans to introduce in a bid to provide a safe and low-cost travel option to Delhi residents and to end the monopoly of autorickshaws.

If the proposal is cleared, the average Delhiite who cannot afford expensive taxis or wants to avoid crowded buses will have a safer and cheaper mode of public transport. The best part: The fares will be at par with autos.

At the same time, the proposal raises important questions. One, whether these cabs will add to the chaos on the roads and two, if separate parking space will have to be created for them. Autorickshaw drivers often park their vehicles at their houses or just about anywhere.

Experts say the move will give passengers more choices. “Vehicles that can accommodate more people and are economical will be a relief for commuters. Such cabs are definitely an improved version of autos and I am sure people will not mind paying some extra money,” said SP Singh, senior fellow, Indian Foundation of Transport Research and Training.

“Buses and Metro have their own limitations. This will discourage the use of private cars as well,” he added.

Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit had first mooted the idea in 2010. Unhappy with the “poor standard of service” of auto-rickshaws, Dikshit had said her government was planning to introduce an alternative mode of para-transit.

Dikshit’s concern was not unfounded. Despite the Delhi government increasing auto fares in June 2010, complaints against drivers for overcharging, misbehaviour and refusal to ply had been continuously increasing. The transport department gets 800-900 such complaints every month.

If small cabs equipped with GPS become a reality, they will not only be economical but safe as well. Delhi government officials said commuters would be able to flag cabs like auto-rickshaws at any place. Unlike taxis that require a proper stand, these cabs will be available near bus stops, commercial hubs, Metro stations and railway stations.

First Published: Jan 25, 2012 23:19 IST