May 09, 2009


Solving the auto-riskshaw problem

Every Indian city has an autorickshaw story. Broadly those can be catagorized in two sets - bad and Mumbai. To the best of my knowledge, Mumbai is the only city where citizens are happy about the autorickshaw scene. You land up in the city comfortably past midnight and ask the auto-wallah to ferry you to a place 18 km away, and you can be very sure that he will drop you at designated place without charging a single rupee.

Last week, Pune's rickshaws went on a flash strike for 4 days holding the entire city to ransom. As it is dealing with them on a daily basis is a pain. They refuse to ply to closer place because it is closer. They refuse to ply long distance because it is far. They never charge by meter. Night charges come into play much before what the rule book says. And since they have a very strong union, they are quite fearless about law of the land. The story for every other city is not much different, except for Mumbai, I suppose.

So, what's it that clicks in Mumbai? From my observation, it the migrant population of auto-drivers who have maintained the sanity. I have had couple of bad experiences with Mumbai autowallhs who talked to me in Marathi and conned me. Though, choosing them for ride was had nothing to do with they speaking same language as mine. The local auto-wallahs did it because they knew they can get away with complete disragard to the rules. They know they have a local dada to help them out. (As a matter of rule, I avoided Marathi autowallahs in certain suburbs of Mumbai.)

But, the migrants from Darbhanga, Vaishali, Kanpur or Unnao do not enj0y a powerful hand on their head. They are on their own. That leaves them with the option of working honestly. Also, since they happen to come from a place where work is extremely difficult to find, they tend to be grateful of the opportunity coming in their way and work honestly on that.

So the solution to the arrogance of autowallahs in Pune and other cities is to bring in lots of migrant autodrivers from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. If 20-25% of autodrivers are migrants, that's a sizeable population to keep the locals on their toes.

But, this is a pipedream as long as we have the supports of "sons of the soil" theory in every city who are ready to ransack at the drop of the hat.

PS: Yes, it's been long time that I am posting on this blog. Scarcity of the time is one thing. And Twitter helps me broadcast my thoughts in 140 characters makes blogging less compelling.

Are you kidding me??? My experience is exactly opposite. The UP-Bihari migrants autowalas in Mumbai are:
1. Absolutely rude and unruly. On the other hand, marathi autowalas are polite and decent.
2. Most of these bhaiyya drivers cheat and ask for higher fares. If I travel same distance in an auto of a UP-Bihari driver, the fare would be 100. But a marathi driver would charge only 80..which is the true fare. This has been my experience many many times.
3. I have always found the marathi drivers extremely considerate and helpful-especially when I am travelling with kids, and/or older people of the family or during heavy rains. On the contrary, the UP-Bihari drivers will refuse the service without any consideration for the kids, or the old person or the weather. I have seen people PLEADING to this bhaiyya drivers..but they just don't care. I have seen bhaiyya drivers shouting at marathi senior citizens..smthing that a marathi auto-driver would never do.
4. Most of these bhaiyya drivers do not have any license..or any knowledge of traffic rules. Most of my friends have the same experience. The bhaiyya autowalas are the no.1 reason for pollution and wayward traffic in mumbai.
Want to know more??? Check out April 2009 Femina magazine about how a bihari auto-driver attempted sexual harrassment of a marathi passenger who was travelling in his auto. Fortunately the marathi lady was courageous so she got this Bihari autowala arrested. But this is the kind of people they are.
I doubt whether you have marathi blood at all in ur veins. You seem to be a bihari writing in disguise.
The post and the first comment both suffer from the same problem - generalisation bordering on stereotyping.

Man fears fear. Period. If order maintenance can invoke the fear that there is a reasonable likelihood of getting caught, people will follow rules. So first the citizens and then the cops should follow and expect others to follow rules.

Bihari/Non Bihari or Marathi / Non marathi are very dangerous ways to frame the problem. The lesser we go down that path and treat is as a universal human psychology issue (all actions and reactions stem from power and negotiability) the better off we are in finding an appropriate solution to the problem much faster.

The use of Marathi and Bihari identities is incidental.
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