Chennai. After years of undisputed leadership in innovative pricing practice for autorickshaw travel and serving as the mentor for other cities to emulate, Chennai city seems to be losing out its old sheen and charm with the introduction of the not-so-fully tampered meters.
The paying public who are so used to the whims and fancies of the auto drivers are still coming to grips with the new world. One of the first victims was the Mambalam Ladies Club member who used to proudly flaunt the Rs.150 trip from her home some 6kms away while the same trip now costs less than half. From being the chief show off, she is now relegated to a cheap show off.
Says owner of Roundabout Travels, “Chennai being a major transit point for travelers to Far East, always has a market for quick sight seeing tours across the city. There used to be about 25 vehicles with fare meters (not to be mistaken for fair meters) and a trip in any of those would take the passenger through all the famous landmarks, irrespective of the destination they travel to. For the privileged North Indian customers who cannot distinguish Tamil from Telugu and refer to all as Madrasis, we also offered auto trips to airport via Tirupati. This lucrative market has now gone for a complete spin,” he lamented.
Concurs recruiting agency Early Intros, “For those arriving from small towns into the city’s main train stations, we would invariably recommend an on boarding auto ride before they board their flights. Many of the first time travelers have come back to thank us on how that short ride made the supposedly high cost of living in Singapore and Malaysia seem very affordable. Now they demand higher salaries for new job offers there”. He added though that there had also been earlier instances where the fresh-to-fly aspirant NRI had gone bankrupt paying the auto fare and ended up walking back to hometown crestfallen.
With the introduction of functioning meters, hospitals have seen a sudden spurt in emergency cases, mostly of passengers newly receiving balance change of Rs.10 or less and suffering from resultant heart failures.
Various Chennai Chambers of small, medium and big enterprises are discussing an across the board cut in conveyance allowances given the close to 50% drop in auto expenses of employees. Taxi operators meanwhile claim that for the first time in Chennai’s history, taxis have become less affordable, thus driving many of them out of business.
Not many are losing hope as yet though. City autos are now becoming much more affordable destinations for adventure seekers. “I can now manage to pay not just the airfare to India but also the Chennai auto fare to experience live on how a three wheeled autorickshaw not just squeezes but also breezes through narrow streaks of space unfit for even bicycles,” said an Australian dirt track expert proudly. Your life costs so much less now, boasted a thrill freak from Thailand.