HYDERABAD: If you are a regular autorickshaw commuter, how often have you noticed the fare meter jump in the blink of an eye and wondered how? And this after probably convincing the driver to take you to certain destinations and putting up with his rash driving, rude behaviour, etc.
‘Meter Setting’ is very common in the city. A research finding on the issue, released by Hyderabad Urban Labs (HUL) here on Monday, claims that there are four common techniques of altering digital meter readings.
Digital meters, which came into use in the city by the end of 2007, use electric pulses to measure time and distance. A sensor attached to the vehicle’s transmission lets the vehicle determine the distance travelled. An electric pulse is sent to the meter every time the vehicle travels a given distance. A timer, kept inside the meter, sends out a pulse when a set amount of time is passed.
The research work done by Ojas Shetty and Harsha Devulapalli says digital meter readings change as pulses coming from the sensor are altered at intervals.
Now, this is how the report decodes ultimate fleecing of commuters. ‘Switch Pressing’ is a method of doubling the pulse rate by pressing a switch that is usually located under driver’s seat. The next is the ‘Hyderabad method’.
“A two-way switch is connected to the engine. The switch has two modes. The driver chooses the mode based on his judgement of the passenger. It is connected with wires to the engine which increase the pulse, thus calculating fare at a higher speed and over a longer distance. The advantage of this technique is that there’s no physical tampering of the meter but it can be detached in case of an inspection by RTA or police officials,” says the report.
Third is the ‘Capacitor’ which is connected to the indicator lamps or front brake. Whenever the vehicle takes a turn or the brake is applied, the pulse rate increases and the fare increases. And the fourth and, mercifully the last, is the ‘wheel alteration’. A mechanical method which relies on rigging the four wheel-like components in the meter.
It is found that the rates for fixing meters vary according to the fare jump needed. Some mechanics or firms charge Rs 500 to set 10-paise jumps and Rs 800 for 20 paise jumps.
When contacted, joint transport commissioner (Hyderabad) T.Raghunath said special drives against non-use of meters and use of tampered meters were being conducted. “We, in coordination with traffic police, are strictly enforcing fixing of correct meters and ensuring that they are not tampered with,” he claimed.
“The idea is not to paint drivers in bad light. Most auto drivers in the city are renters and the responsibility of ensuring non-tampered meter lies with the owner/contractor,” said Harsha Devulapalli. Ojas Shetty added, “So, when drivers get penalised, their incomes are affected and, in order to make up for the losses, they are likely to continue to ply with faulty meters. Thus, the problem continues, and largely because of the steps taken to address it.”