RAJAHMUNDRY:Thanks to Godavari Maha Pushkarams, the auto-rickshaw drivers in the city are fleecing the passengers by collecting double and triple the regular fares. In some cases, the auto tariff is much more than the one-way ticket price of an RTC bus from Rajahmundry to Visakhapatnam.
Similar is the case with lodges and hotels where the owners are minting money by collecting hefty bills from customers. Though the government permitted to double the rent (for 24 hours), the pilgrims are forced to cough up Rs 3,500 for a single room as against Rs 300.
Since the RTC buses are running jam-packed round-the-clock, there has been huge demand for auto-rickshaws. Taking advantage of the situation, the unscrupulous auto drivers are fleecing the passengers, leaving little option for the latter to bargain. The autowallahs are charging Rs 350 as against Rs 60 to transport people within the city and operating on individual hire system rather than share /service basis.
Even for share autos, they are collecting Rs 40-50 per person as against Rs 10-15 during daytime and Rs 100 in the nights, thus burning a hole in the pockets of the tourists. Moreover, they are operating the vehicles with minimum 15 people aboard.
“An auto driver demanded Rs 100 to drop us at RTC Complex from Morempudi Junction, while it costs around Rs 25-30 in normal days. Also, we were forced to pay Rs 350 for an auto-rickshaw from Sheraton Hotel to Kotlingala Ghat, which is more than the ticket fare to Visakhapatnam from here,” wondered Manikrishna Koppula, a techie from Visakhapatnam and native of Rajahmundry.
Against this backdrop, many pilgrims are reaching the ghats on foot, right from RTC Bus Stand and railway stations. “The auto drivers were demanding Rs 300 from the RTC Complex to one of the ghats. Though the city buses are offering a free ride, they are either packed to the brim with tourists most of the times or their frequency has slowed down due to traffic congestion. As such, we were forced to walk around 2-3 km along with our children in scorching heat,” lamented M Padmavathi, a pilgrim from Salur in Vizianagaram district.
Coming to lodging and boarding, though the rooms in many hotels and deluxe lodges have already been occupied, the budget hotels and dormitories are charging a bomb for 24-hour stay. The lodge owners are charging Rs 3,500 per day for a single room, which would otherwise cost just Rs 300 in normal times.
On Friday night, a lodge near Kotilingala Ghat rented out its room for Rs 3,000 a person and the only reason that the owner cited was Godavari Pushkarams. It is more or less the same case with all the lodges near the ghats and across the city, and the pilgrims are only finding themselves helpless.