Amongst all the nostalgic posts on my friends’ blogs, this might seem something out of the ordinary. I do miss my campus, and I am going to wallow in pits of nostalgia later on. Just like my batchmates. No doubt. But this is more important.
Bangalore is a great city otherwise, of course the old-timers there would not care to agree, with their constant rants that the IT crowd has destroyed the great heritage the British brought along with it. But for a neo-classicist-turned-post-modernist, I find Bangalore fascinating. It’s just like Delhi, with a lot more culture imposed on it because of its cosmopolitan population. A couple of years ago, I would trumpet that “I like Delhi better than Bangalore”. Now coming home to Delhi from Bangalore, I am not so sure.
One thing though stands out like a sore thumb in reinvented Bangalore. It’s auto-rickshaw drivers. (By the way, this post applies to most metros in India, most of all Chennai.) It is an important problem because a large proportion of the transport in Bangalore happens through autorickshaws. To put some figures on paper, there are approximately 60,000 – 65,000 autos in Bangalore: about 1% of Bangalore’s 8,000,000 population (that is including the Greater Bangalore areas) are auto-rickshawallahs.
That the “problem” is a product of the influx of the IT-wallahs, it is pretty evident. But they are a problem. A typical conversation that you would hear with an auto-rickshaw drivers would begin with you stating where you want to go. The auto-wallah would then tell you a price closer to double the metered rate and it’s not even nighttime. The conversation can take any of the following turns: 1.) You begin to walk away, and the auto-wallah drives off, leaving you there to find another auto. This is, by the way, against the rules: By law, if an empty auto is flagged down, the auto-wallah cannot refuse to take him. 2.) You begin to walk away, and the auto-wallah follows you reducing the price, till you two have a meeting point. 3.) You and the auto-wallah have a shouting match, and the more intimidating wins. 4.) Or you give in because you don’t have the time to waste on arguing over the fare.
That is not to say there aren’t any nice auto-drivers. There are some who are tremendously nice. But the vast majority of them are not averse to taking their passengers for a ride, clearly extorting them in the middle of the night, or even beating them up if they don’t comply. It has even happened to a couple of IIMB students, that too in front of our very own gates.
I think you are getting the picture now.
Of course, we have a problem with them because they have a problem. I am sure money is not the problem with a lot of them. They have enough and more of it. There are a lot of them driving around with gold watches, gold chains, state-of-the-art stereo systems in their autos. A lot of them have money to spare. Why would they haggle over the prices? Why would they not go by the meter?
I even did a rudimentary costing for the auto-rickshaw driving business. On an average, the auto-driver has to fill up Rs. 300 worth of gas. He would require Rs. 100 for his food during the day, and another Rs. 200 towards the auto-rental, if he doesn’t own the vehicle, or towards the loan or depreciation and maintainence if he does. That’s a total of Rs. 600 everyday.
The revenue part of the business: A trip to MG Road, in the centre of the city, from my college typically costs Rs. 70. So to earn atleast Rs. 600, he needs to run 9 trips. Anything more than goes into his pockets. Each trip on an average takes half an hour, and an auto-rickshaw driver typically works 12 hours, including waiting time. If he was running for all 12 hours, he would earn Rs. 1680 by the meter. Therefore profits: Rs. 1000 per day! Multiply it by 30, you have a cool Rs. 30000 per month. What’s wrong with that?
Link of the day: India is not only the land of chess champions, but this year of carrom champions as well! Illavazhagi, from Chennai is now the World Carrom Champion.