Do tourists arriving in Chennai ‘think’ autorickshaw drivers are taking them for a ride? This amusing headline in The Hindu today for a story on the avaricious nature of Chennai autorickshaw drivers points to some of the hidden issues that wait to be tacked.
The autorickshaws in Tamil Nadu’s capital city are outside the pale of law. They violate every rule contained in the permit right under the nose of policemen, who are, by the way, vigorously enforcing the motor vehicles law for a lot of other people now (no quarrel with that, though).
By ignoring law, the autorickshaw drivers have done the following things:
1. Made Chennai internationally notorious as a city with a lawless feeder transport system.
2. Prevented the expansion of the government-run bus system.
3. Enabled vested interests in the previous government to launch another unregulated transport option, the Tata Magic van service in some areas.
4. Opened up the market to yet another unregulated transport system, the radio taxi (largely dominated by one operator, Fastrack)
5. Prevented sustainable and expanded operations of feeder transport.
The Hindu’s piece talks about “Tourist Friendly” autorickshaws, which have been given a lot of publicity over the past few years as a kind of “moral and ethical” alternative to the routine autorickshaws. The report does not mention, however, whether they run on meter, are ready to operate everywhere, and whether they have proper meters. Again, do these autorickshaws serve anyone or only those with foreign passports? (Previous articles have also been vague about this).
An interesting discussion comparing Chennai’s greedy autorickshaws with the officially high-priced London Taxi is to be found here.