CHENNAI: A few smart auto drivers who usually settle on a generic ‘`30-over-the-meter’ rule for most passengers, have begun offering discounts to keep their passengers from ratting them out to cops, when they are stopped and checked. While most offer to accept only what the meter tallies, some passengers have found that fear of the long arm of the law has pushed drivers to even discount the meter fare.
“I was going from Valluvar Kottam to Nandanam and had agreed to pay `20 over the meter’s charge, when we saw police checking autos near Panagal Park. My driver turned immediately and said that he’d give me a discount of `10 if is told the police that he was going by the meter and also threw in a couple of lines about his wife and kids,” recounts Nithya Ramanunni, an advertising professional. Curious to see if it worked and not particularly keen to lose her ride, she told the cop that all was well and they continued, “When we reached my office, he looked at the meter, took the `50 note from me and glumly returned a tenner to me. I was quite amazed,” she adds with a long laugh.
As autos are fined for the first two offences and stand to lose their license for the third offence, drivers have a lot to lose, “A similar thing happened to me when I was going to Saidapet Court from T Nagar bus stand and the man refused to come for under `50. As we turning on to Mount Road, a policeman hailed us from 50 metres away and the driver quickly told me that he’d charge only the meter rate if I told the policeman that he had not asked for more. I figured the fear would make him do it right henceforth and so I let it go,” says Rajarathnam N, a law student.
For their part, auto drivers say that many of them are being targetted by cops and the transport department, “So many of our members are being hauled up for minor offences and if they lose their licenses, who will stand up for them? This sort of thing will help people understand that auto drivers are also human,” said R Venkatesh, president of an Auto Welfare Association that has no affiliation to the unions.