For the past two days, there has been a problem brewing in the process of installing new e-meters in auto rickshaws and taxis. The touts outside Regional Transport Offices (RTOs) and unlawful agents are acting like middlemen and are charging around Rs 250-300 for recalibration as approved by the state government.
The situation has become so delicate that on Friday morning, a group of autorickshaw drivers went on a flash roadblock to protest against the extra money that they are paying for recalibration. Starting March 1, new fares came into effect and also the process of recalibrating e-meters began. Sources said that in the last couple of days, there have been two main issues plaguing the procedure.
First, there are the illegal touts, who are operating outside various repair centers and RTO test tracks, have been charging Rs 250-300 claiming that they will expedite the process. These autos are now being prepared for test runs at 13 test tracks across Mumbai suburbs. These include 5 at Wadala RTO, 5 at Andheri RTO and 3 at Borivali RTO.
Some of the drivers waiting near Ghatkopar test track, on Friday, who in fact fall under the Wadala RTO, realised that they were being overcharged. “It was not a strike. These drivers came on the road as they were being charged more than the approved rate by these agents,” said Shashank Rao, leader, Mumbai Autorickshaw Men’s Union.
Second, some of the meter manufacturers are now demanding more prices for upgrading the chip that will allow converting fares from Rs 18 to Rs 21 on the e-meter. “They are demanding Rs 325-350 per chip though it was agreed to pay Rs 250 per chip. Now work is getting hampered and the auto drivers are unable to get their rickshaws on time to recalibrate,” said an e-meter repairer.
A driver said that they are being asked for Rs 1,200-1,500 for the entire procedure. There are 3-4 meter manufacturers whose main job is to develop new chip. These e-meters are then table tested at various institutes and laboratories for a minimum of 20-kms run. Then they are taken to these e-meter repairers who put up seals and then sent to the RTOs for final test run.
There are around 150 odd meter repairers in Mumbai. On an average each can recalibrate and fit 100 e-meters per day. Sources in RTO agreed that recalibrating mere 500 autos in five days is less. And these problems are unnecessarily causing issues in the process. “We have finalised Rs 700 as rate for recalibration which includes everything,” said Avinash Dhakne, Transport Commissioner.