Mumbai: Recalibrated e-meters may expose Mumbaikars to Covid-19 risk

Mumbaikars will not only be paying more for their auto and taxi ride, but there is a bigger problem ahead amid these Covid times. The 2.50 lakh odd auto and taxi permit holders in Mumbai have got 3 months time to recalibrate their e-meters that would lead to rush at RTOs and test centers thus increasing risk of spreading the virus. If not properly handled then it could pose danger to passengers of getting infected by coronavirus, sitting in the autos and taxis.

The problem being that the permit holders of auto rickshaws and taxis will start flocking the different e-meter testing centers and RTOs to recalibrate, test and reinstall in their vehicles in the coming days. As per the process, the manufacturers of these e-meters will now take work on the new fare system that needs to be inscribed into the e-meters.

The next step will be for the auto and taxi drivers and permit holders to take their vehicles to testing centers present across the city. Here the new fare formula arrived at, will be rebooted into the system of these meters.

"A special table test will be conducted on these meters wherein the machine calibrating them will rotate until it completes 20 kms. This is done to ascertain if the e-meters are showing proper calculations based on distance covered or not. And in case of any anomalies then it shall be corrected then and there," explained a RTO officer on condition of anonymity.

In a day, at each center the machines have capacity to recalibrate few hundred but with Covid-19, they expect it to be lesser. Once this test is complete, the e-meters will be sealed and given to the permit holders who need to open the seal after testing the e-meters in front of RTO officials. This means, there could be long queues of autos-taxis at RTOs.

"We realize that their could be crowding for recalibration of meters and so we are going to meet the officials from Transport department to discuss how to smoothen the process and create more options for testing these e-meters," said Thampy Kurien, auto rickshaw union leader.

The auto and taxi drivers cannot charge the new fares unless they don't install the new recalibrated meters and so the chances of rush is more. The new fares will come in place from March 1 and the government has given time of 3 months for the new recalibrated meters to be installed.

And from June all 2.20 lakh autos and 30000 black and yellow taxis in Mumbai will have it. The revised fares will also be applicable in Mumbai's metropolitan region of Navi Mumbai, Vasai-Virar, Thane, Kalyan etc. Meanwhile the Mumbai Grahak Panchayat wrote a letter to the Transport minister Anil Parab asking him to defer the fare hike either by 6 months, not to apply the per kilometer hike that is over Rs 2; owing to the pandemic that has resulted in loss of livelihood and job losses.

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