HYDERABAD: A day after oil companies announced the steepest ever hike in petrol price, auto-rickshaw drivers in the city seemed to have taken an oath to pass on the burden to the people, disregarding the mandatory meter chargers, and further fuelling public fury. At several places, people were seen arguing with the auto-drivers for overcharging them in the name of the petrol price hike.
“I travel the same distance to my office everyday by an auto and the meter shows different rates almost everyday. Today, I was asked to pay `70 above the meter charges,” fumed G Swetha, a private firm employee in Jubilee Hills. The drivers either hesitate to run the meter or overcharge customers. Some politely disagree to give back the change and some even go to the extent of picking up an argument, she said.
But on Thursday, the auto-drivers too had a justifiable cause for charging more. “The minimum fares need to be revised every time petrol prices are hiked. We are also helpless. The petrol prices are hiked by almost `8. How do you expect us to feed our families till the rates are revised? There might be people who charge exorbitantly but there are also cops who fleece us. There are two sides to every story,” justified Ramkumar, an auto-rickshaw driver near Somajiguda.
But the pent up frustration among the people at the frequent fleecing by auto-drivers showed itself and few, if any, were sympathetic towards them. S Tejaswini, a government servant, claimed auto-rickshaw drivers do not run the meters. “I am a regular traveller and I am aware of the normal rates. In spite of that, I end up having a fight early in the morning with the auto-driver and spoil my day,” she said.
Rajeswar Rao, a senior citizen, pointed out that even autos run on LPG and diesel were charging more. “I had once paid an auto-rickshaw driver whatever he quoted but later realised the petrol price hike had nothing to do with an auto that runs on LPG!” he said.
It is not just the regular auto-rickshaws but also the ones which carry children to schools who intend to immediately raise the fare.
“My grandchildren go to school by auto-rickshaw everyday. For a 10-minute ride to school, we pay him about `550. Now, he has hinted at a rise in the monthly fare from June 1,” said D Priya, a home maker. The auto-drivers’ unions are already mulling a proposal to demand hike in minimum fare and are likely to come up with the demand in a day or two.