A new club - of honest autorickshaw driversOctober 16th, 2008 - 12:39 pm ICT by IANS
New Delhi, Oct 16 (IANS) There’s a new club in town. The members are well dressed, courteous, trained and honest, and they all drive autorickshaws.Immaculately dressed in a grey uniform, Deepak Jaiswal, an autorickshaw driver, stood beside his vehicle, beaming with pride.
Jaiswal, 40, is a member of the Star Autorickshaw Club, an initiative of NGO Nyaya Bhoomi that works for ensuring accountability in public governance. The club so far has 24 members.
The member drivers are committed that they will not turn down passengers, will go by the fare meter and maintain a courteous, customer-oriented approach.
“The people of Delhi have seen us as the bad guys who fleece and harass, and that is shameful,” said Jaiswal who has worked a 13-hour shift for the past 15 years on a rented vehicle.
Regarding the practice of many drivers rigging the government- prescribed fare meters, Jaiswal explained to IANS: “When the old meters were there, it was easy to get them rigged. The new electronic meters are clever, if you tamper with them, they will stop functioning altogether in some time.
“I admit I was party to that once - but now no longer. For the past five years, my meter has not caused problems, and I am happy and satisfied with what I earn. I would prefer to eat one meal less than to earn a dishonest rupee.”
Jaiswal, like many other driver members, contacted the NGO when they were unable to tackle corrupt officials to get their licences renewed.
“There were so many middlemen who asked for papers, then for money at different levels to process the case. Finally with the NGO’s help, my papers were processed without hassles. That’s how the driving experience and commuters’ experience should be - hassle free,” Jaiswal averred.
Sporting a plate bearing the brand’s name, a fare chart, and a message ‘I am an honest autorickshaw driver; we work with honesty to change Delhi’s destiny’ with the driver’s photo put up on the vehicle’s yellow covering - the autos of the club are a welcome sight to commuters in the capital who are accustomed to haggling with rude drivers.
The entry cost for the club, that hopes to rope in 15,000 drivers in a year’s time, is Rs.3,000.
The amount can be paid in instalments and covers the cost of training the drivers (traffic rules, code of conduct), their uniforms and the auto’s makeover with new seats, direction indicators, paint and other such refurbishments.
Another member, Raju Gupta, 35, is worried about the soaring food prices. “I have four children and after cutting the cost of renting vehicle, and the fixed amount to give to the club, I am left with Rs.100 a day. That’s peanuts!”
Asked if that’ll make him compromise his commitment, Gupta, who is a high school pass out, shook his head, saying “What I make is with a clean conscience - the passenger will respect me and I won’t be scrounging on his hard-earned money.”
Chandrabhan Singh, 48, has been driving on the city’s streets since 1990. He felt that the fleecing attitude was not so prevalent in earlier days.
“Relations between the commuter and driver were cordial - only now the equation has changed. Commuters don’t trust the driver, and drivers go to any extent to make extra money - without realising that no trust means no satisfaction,” Singh said.
For many members the club’s training programme on traffic rules and code of conduct was a blessing in disguise.
“It was a good experience - they taught me traffic rules like staying on the left of the road, explained the functioning of the electronic meter, taught me courtesy. This was a novel experience and I benefited - I haven’t been given a ticket for nearly six months now,” Jaiswal grinned.
The club also plans to give its members various social security benefits like insurance and pension plans.
“Such schemes will be funded by revenues the club will generate through display advertisements on the back of the rickshaws,” said Rakesh Agarwal, secretary Nyaya Bhoomi.
“We have given them registers to keep accounts, feedback and suggestions to keep the system transparent - these features and other yet-to-be-decided parameters will be used to evaluate the drivers, and the drivers will then be awarded gold stars which will go on their uniforms,” Agarwal told IANS.
(Shweta Srinivasan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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