A club of honourable auto-rickshaw drivers

January 13th, 2009 - 2:41 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Jan 13 (IANS) You are in a hurry and waiting for an auto-rickshaw. When it finally arrives, you are asked to pay an exorbitant fare. If you say no, you keep waiting. This everyday experience in India’s capital may change, at least a little.City-based NGO Nyaya Bhoomi has formed an Autorickshaw Star Club. Each member will take the vow to be an “Imandar Auto Chalak” (honourable auto driver, IAC in short) and be dedicated to reforming the black sheep image of auto-rickshaw drivers.

Nyaya Bhoomi has been dedicated to improving the lives of auto-rickshaw drivers and their passengers for the past two years.

The IAC will not refuse to carry a passenger, nor overcharge, nor break traffic rules. They will be polite too.

“We have given proper training to the drivers to ensure good conduct towards customers, run strictly on meter basis and not to refuse at all,” Nyaya Bhoomi secretary Rakesh Agarwal told IANS.

The club will regularly monitor the performance of the drivers and give them reward points. These points get converted into stars for the star club.

The club was launched Oct 14 last year. It has 80 members now - 40 on the roads and 40 more under training.

“In Delhi there are more than 50,000 auto-rickshaws and over one lakh (100,000) drivers. We will try to reform their lives at the earliest. We hope to make over 15,000 auto-rickshaws join the club before the end of this year,” Agarwal added.

A man who has quit his export business to devote all his time to this cause, Agarwal also plans to give a proposal to the government, asking that the authorities train all auto-rickshaw drivers for at least 15 days each, and then run regular refresher courses.

Delhi Traffic Police had arranged a one-day workshop for auto-rickshaw drivers last November and December.

“We have organised these workshops in various parts of Delhi. They were focussed on educating the drivers about their behaviour towards passengers and traffic rules,” Delhi Traffic Police Joint Commissioner S.N. Srivastava told IANS.

Drivers who have joined the Autorickshaw Star Club are happy, and hope passengers will now respect them as well.

“I have been running an auto-rickshaw in Delhi for more than 12 years. Recently I have joined this club. Now I enjoy respect from passengers as I run on meter only. Being educated about various traffic laws and the Motor Vehicles Act saves me from any kind of harassment from policemen or other officials. The club will soon provide all drivers a range of benefits such as insurance and pension plans, finance and bank accounts,” Chandrabhan Singh told IANS.

The club will gather revenue through advertisements on the auto-rickshaws.

Club members however have sometimes faced hostility from other drivers. “I was almost beaten and my auto-rickshaw was damaged in Janakpuri by drivers who felt I was ruining their business by running on meter,” said Sitaram.

Some auto-rickshaw drivers are sceptical about the club. “I have seen many such clubs and unions, but there is no credibility. Sometimes such unions and clubs come up just to make money. I am happy with the way I am,” said a driver who identified himself only as Sonu.

But passengers who board the auto-rickshaw of a club member are pleasantly surprised. “I was surprised to see the poster on the auto-rickshaw saying ‘Ek Imandar auto chalak’. It was even more surprising to find their polite and professional way of talking and readily moving on meter.

“Though I don’t see many auto-rickshaws from this club, whenever I need an auto I pray I can find this hassle-free auto-rickshaw again.” said an elated Pradeep Chaprana, a human resource executive with RNIS Pvt Ltd.

“If all the auto drivers run on meter and follow good conduct, like the drivers from Autorickshaw Star Club, the city will certainly be a far better place to live in,” said Nayeem Ahmed, an executive with software firm HCL.

(He can be contacted at nabeel.k@ians.in)

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