An auto commuter's open letter to Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal

Subject: An auto commuter's open letter to Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal
From: An auto commuter
Date: 20 May 2015

Dear sir,

Read your pronouncements on the autorickshaws of Delhi with great interest. You have restricted the powers of Delhi police to suspend their permits and given them the right to refusal on their way home. You have announced an annual hike, constituted a welfare board and spoken of financial assistance up to Rs 5 lakh for a fresh vehicle.

We know the autorickshaw drivers are among your core supporters. They kept the faith even during in your dark post-49 days phase. Like many other politicians, you have rewarded your key supporters. Indeed some measures are fine examples of social welfare, a touchstone of democracy.

Nonetheless, there are two sides to every story. And in your city—or is it the LG's?—the autorickshaw narrative is incomplete without the version of the passenger.

I have been using autos since the days meters showed Rs 3 at starting point. Those were days of the garari or iron teeth. Ask your friends, how they used to remove them for faster revolutions. They cheated the passengers of 10% to 40% depending on how many teeth had been removed.

The garari was gone after the electronic meters arrived some years back. But the plight of the customers has not improved. Undeniably, autorickshaw drivers are often at the receiving end of harassment by cops. But the truth also is they too harass customers in various ways. Overcharging and refusal to go are two top gripes on my list but you can also add, occasional boorish behaviour. What are you doing to address these issues? I feel the customers' plight could get worse for two reasons: One, the right to refusal on way back home could give the drivers an official license to refuse anytime. Two, without fear of challan by cops, their behaviour might turn worse. And I don't think your pronouncement -- "Just serve the people of Delhi with folded hands for a year and I am certain they will gladly pay more" - will magically transform them.

Sir, I know you are aam aadmi. But an important social reality seems to have escaped you. Many of those who use the autos occasionally are not from the well-heeled middle class who have long moved into cars. It is often the lower middle-class stuck in places like hospitals, railway stations or bus stands. The autowallah has no class empathy for these people. Rather, they are harsher on them precisely because they are powerless. The autos are also used occasionally by school and college students, middle-income professionals and thousands of other ordinary people in the city. What about them?

Sir, I believe rights and duties go hand in hand. And I believe you are the CM of every citizen of this great capital and not just of the autorickshaw drivers. Please, sir, would it be too much to expect to look at issues from the passengers' point of view as well?


An auto commuter