The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Transport Authority (MMRTA) recently approved the application of the Mumbai Rickshaw Men's Union for conducting bench tests of electronic fare meters in taxis and auto-rickshaws.
Welcoming the decision, rickshaw union leader Thampy Kurian said, “This move will further speed up the meter recalibration process.” However, experts feared that this decision could lead to a conflict of interest.
Bench test is a certification process of e-meters before they are re-fitted after recalibration. During the test, it's checked if an e-meter is showing accurate fare for specific distances. Subsequently, a road test of the vehicle will be carried out by RTO officials. If a meter is found as per norms during road test then RTO officials seal the meter, allowing it to ferry passengers.
The union had applied for bench test permission in January 2022. In May, a motor vehicles inspector conducted an inspection of the premises where the union intended to set up the center and submitted his report about fulfilment of terms and conditions by the union.
“We had applied for the license of the bench test as per rule and also completed all procedures. Hence, the permission was granted,” said Kurian. Neglecting the fear of conflict of interest, he reasoned that even RTO officials will check the meters after the bench test.
Presenting a contrasting view, traffic expert Mohammad Afzal said, “The autorickshaw union is an interested party. Hence, there will definitely be a conflict of interest. The certification should always be done by an independent body like a government-run engineering college or other institutions.”
So far, meters of 35% autos and taxis have been recalibrated while the upgradation deadline is November 30. The taxi and auto unions have asked to extend the same.