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On the wheels of desire

Mini cabs may replace autos in Delhi. But it will not make the ride easier. KumKum Dasgupta writes.

india Updated: Jan 19, 2012 22:48 IST
KumKum Dasgupta
KumKum Dasgupta
Hindustan Times

So finally, finally, the Delhi government admits that it has failed miserably to rein in the autowallahs and force them to change their devil-may-care attitude on the roads. But instead of saying so in plain language, the government has come up with a fine strategy, a cover-up actually, if you ask me. On Thursday, this paper reported that the government is "examining" a new proposal for making our commute comfortable, hassle-free and less nerve-wracking. So instead of adding more autos and those legendary moody drivers to the already-congested streets of the city, the government wants to introduce small private cabs. These mini taxis, it says, will be fitted with global positioning systems (or GPS, which sounds positively First World) and its fare structure will be same as that for the autos plying in the city.

As we all know, behind every noble and novel idea, there are always some very serious reasons - and this mini taxi one is no different. The government says that it wants to ensure passenger security and convenience, and check overcharging and refusal by the fall guys - the autowallahs. Which, when decoded, means: 'Sorry people, we have been unable to check the autowallahs, make them behave and follow the existing rules that we have in place. So, we are doing the next best thing: instead of tweaking an existing system, we are getting a new one. Bingo! Now, how cool is that! If this doesn't work, we can get another. Trust us. We are with you, for you, always.'

Now let's talk about the GPS system that seems to be the answer to all public transport problems. Can anyone tell me whatever happened to the promise made on November 10, 2011, by Delhi's transport minister? To introduce greater route and fare transparency, the Delhi government had announced that it would replace the present electronic metre system with a new GPS device system. But the fact is, the government has been unable to implement even this rule thanks to some stiff and spirited resistance put up by the auto drivers.

But nothing - absolutely nothing - can beat this next gem: to keep the autowallahs in business (the same guys who they despise and have been unable to control), the government wants to give them licences to run the new mini car-cab system. So this is what we will get: a new system run by the same people (the autowallahs) who have managed to fend off the existing government rules. Is the government trying to tell us that the same autowallahs will suddenly become well-behaved, law-abiding boys once they start driving the mini taxis without the government departments flexing their muscles a bit? If wishes were horses...

First Published: Jan 19, 2012 22:45 IST