(In the concluding part to the 4 part series “Bangalore’s Auto-Rickshaw Drivers – Time to Reform?” (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3), we discuss the problems in setting up a system by which we incorporate the auto-wallahs into firms, so that we could allow them to fix their own prices and at the same time, create competition to check the price levels.)
Of course, there would be tremendous resistance. They would immediately realise they would be losing an enormous amount of money in this venture. Entire power equations would change. It always happens when you try removing grey markets. It happened with prohibition in the US, and it is one of the main reasons why you cannot bring addictive substances into the mainstream market. There is too much money to lose the current stakeholders in the change.
This is also more difficult to implement because some of the people who own autos, are or used to be part of the government or police. But it could be done.
I don’t know how to do this efficiently, but the trick I guess is to use PR to your advantage. Paint the government as the saviour of the public, paint the auto-wallahs as the oppressed people in Bangalore. It can be done. That would force them to agree to the stand proposed, and would make it difficult to do otherwise; they would be afraid of losing something that image in the minds of the public.
The whole thing might not work at all, but my intention is to create a debate on this topic, which would probably lead to a better solution. As I said, since the situation is very similar in other metros, a simple solution once thought of, could be implemented in other cities, removing a major pain-point from citizen’s lives.
In this regard, I received a comment from Rakesh Agarwal, of Nyayabhoomi, who are doing an ambitious job with autos in Delhi. They have started an “Autorickshaw Star Club”, in which they are enrolling auto-rickshaw drivers who are going to much different from the run-of-the-mill chaps on the road. They are going to earn advertising revenue from advertisments on their vehicles. In return for the advertising revenue, they have to be polite to the customers :). They would also have an elaborate system of promotion, which is an added incentive for them. They estimate about 25,000 drivers to join this club by 2008.
The website also has more accurate costing for auto-rickshaw drivers than I have put up in my blog post. So interested people can update themselves there. 🙂 By the way, I never intended to anywhere close to accurate in this post. I just wanted to bring out the flaws, that would help explain the fares.