AUTORICKSHAWS have continued to run undisciplined, that too despite repeated warnings and reminders, much to the chagrin of passengers. Such a situation also brings to the fore a failure of the authorities concerned to discipline them. CNG-run three-wheelers in Dhaka, as New Age reported on Saturday, mostly refuse to go by the meter and charge even triple the actual fare instead, demand an additional amount in the ranges of Tk 20–Tk 50 if they agree to go by the meter, decline to take trips that they consider short-distance, do not show photo identity cards, do not have fare charts hung inside the vehicle and largely flout the full dress code. Another problem that comes up prominently is that autorickshaws are not available on the road for 24 hours. Yet another problem is that meters in many autorickshaws run faster, not calibrated keeping to the standards, as a means to exploit passengers. Added to such series of problems is the commercial presence of autorickshaws meant for private use. Sporadic, partial and even insincere efforts on part of the authorities have let the situation roll to this extent.
The government enforced the latest fare chart in Dhaka in November 2015 and in Chittagong in February 2016. But the meetings that decide the fare chart usually have no representation from the drivers and, therefore, it becomes easy for the owners to agree to the daily deposit in the ranges of Tk 600–Tk 900 but keep charging the drivers mostly double the amount in daily rental, which, in turn, forces drivers to charge passengers at will. Instances are common where owners charge drivers the set amount, or more, for a single shift spanning about eight hours, putting the drivers in jeopardy to line their pockets in an easy way. For the fare chart to be effective, meetings making such decisions must have representation from the drivers and the authorities must come down heavily on the profiteering motive of the owners. If the owners continue to charge the drivers higher, the drivers will follow in the footstep of owners to shore up the additioal money they need to pay. With this being sorted out, the authorities concerned, both in law enforcement and road transport management, need to be strict in making drivers go by the rules, be it in dealing the reluctance at taking short-distance trip or hanging the fare chart inside the vehicle or complying with the dress code. The authorities also need to make the complaint process, and the process to take action consequent on the complaints, easy and devoid of hassles so that passengers come forward in aid of traffic management officials.
Indiscipline in the management of autorickshaws has always be a prickly issue, both for the passengers and the government. The government, under the circumstances, must deal with the issues concerning the owners strictly if it means to discipline autorickshaws on the road and afford passengers some relief.
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