Much has been outraged about the autorickshaw drivers in Bangalore and their overcharging habits. People seem to be helpless in front of them trying to wring out a profit by hook or by crook, the law often being helpless. But sorry to say, many a time the naive passenger who has a chance to get back at them by opting to take alternate options available at a much lesser cost and at a greater comfort willingly go and jump in their jaws and then complain. Yes, I am talking about people who do not use public transport when they have a chance for it, may be due to high-horses syndrome, lazyness or misplaced entitlement. Here are some scenarios I have witnessed in real life that shows this.
Location: Rajeshwari Theater Bus Stop, Old Airport Road, Bangalore
An autorickshaw is parked next to the bus stop. The driver sits inside, reading a newspaper. A Barbie Lady wearing a tad too much makeup and oversized sunglasses approaches the autorickshaw and asks: "Bhaiyya, Majestic jaoge?"
At that very moment, a huge red (air-conditioned) Volvo bus of the BMTC hisses to a stop just behind the auto. The large digital display in front read "335E KBS (Majestic) via ITPL, Marathalli, HAL...." (in English). In addition to this, the conductor leans out of the door and shouts "Majestic! Majestic! Manipal, Domlur, Richmond, Majestic!" A couple of people board the bus, but not the bimbo. Not with out as so much as a glance towards the bus,
Barbie: "Bhaiyya! Majestic?"
Autodriver (A bit amused and confused, looks at the bus which was just leaving) and then with a smirk, says: "250, Medam".
Barbie: "250? Woh zyaada hai! 150 mein jaoge?"
Autodrive: "150 mein nahi hota. Majestic mein bahut autos hai, vaapas savari milnach mushkil hain."
Barbie: "Teek hai, 200 mein jaoge bhaiyya?"
Autodriver: (Grumbles, then) "Theek hai. Baitho Medam"
Barbie gets into the auto with an air of displeasure. The autodriver smirks again as he drives off.
Location: BTM 2nd Stage, Jayadeva Flyover Bus Stop (Opp MICO Layout)
Two executive-ly dressed corporate snobs arrive at the bus stop and inquire
Snobs: "How to get to Bellandur, uh, Eco Space?"
Guy at Bus Stop: "500C. There is one every 5-10 minutes."
Snobs: "500C? What is that?
Guy: "It is a bus. Volvo, AC."
Snobs: "Nono, I meant distance, route"
Guy: "Some 8 km, straight down this road only. Oh, here comes the bus."
Snobs: "Thanks!" then, "Auto!"
An autorickshaw hears their call and stops, just behind of which the 500C brakes to a halt.
Snobs: "Bellandur? EcoSpace?"
Auto driver (looks them up and down, looks at the bus behind them): "300!"
They get in the auto and drive away, while me, the guy and some others board the 500C, which overtakes their auto almost instantly.
Location: Restaurant, BTM 2nd Stage
I was having dinner with a friend when this dude, an acquaintance of my friend walked in. We invited him to join us and we learned that he was just promoted to some associate TL in his company, and was scheduled to go for training somewhere.
Dude: "But I am not going."
Me: "But why? It is all company sponsored no?"
Dude: "Yes, but they are not giving me a car to go to the airport. Cost cutting. They are asking me to take the bus!"
Friend: "So what? Take the bus no, you can get in from in front of your office only, and get down at the Airport..."
Dude: "Come on! Me? Take the bus?? No way! I won't go in a.. bhus!!"
Me: "But it is a Volvo, has AC and is very silent and comfortable, and probably reaches faster than a cab!"
Dude: "Yeah, maybe. I won't go in a bus. Let all those other people go. Faltu log jaate hain bus mein. Nah (Makes a snooty face)"
Me (incredulously): "Are all those people taking buses stupid? The govt has spent 60 lakhs on each of those. Don't be so snobby! You are not a CEO or something!"
Dude: "Hey! Who are you boss? I will travel only according to my standards, ok? What is your problem?"
The scene ended here with dude canceling his order and storming out. (Thankfully) I never met him again.
Location: Facebook, Bangalore Traffic Police's Facebook page
Guy outraging about the early morning autorickshaw madness at Silk Board Junction and Madivala.
If you are unfamiliar with this, like any intercity/interstate bus stop anywhere in India, there will be around a thousand autorickshaw guys waiting at these places in Bangalore too to pounce upon you once you get down from the bus early in the morning, demanding you pay through your nose for them to take you to your destinations. Charges will be as high as Rs. 50 for a kilometer depending on how good you are at bargaining. I have seen people paying Rs.600 for a 8 km journey (Madiwala to Indiranagar). Abhorrent as it is, some prudence is required on our end, it is not as if cheaper options are not available. It is your money.
So the guy wanted to go from Silk Board to Banashankari and was complaining that the autodrivers were asking too much. The funny fact is that the bus stop towards Banashankari is just around 50 meters away with there are all kinds of buses departing every minute with fares ranging from Rs.12 to Rs.35. I suggested he take the bus, and all hell broke loose, with people finding all sorts of excuses and explanations to justify themselves not taking a bus and taking an auto with some people even admonishing me for taking the "auto drivers' side" and auto drivers are doing day light robbery and so on.
More Scenes from Bangalore
M.G. Road - People taking autos from in front of the Metro Station - to Indira Nagar!
Brigade Road - Autos making a killing despite buses (BIG 10 - green colored) to all parts of the City are lined up there
Koramangala/Forum/Christ College - The less said the better
Madiwala - Yes, you will have to walk a bit to St.John's/Checkpost but still no one bothers to.
Marathalli - Saw someone complaining on Facebook that autos overcharge for going from Kundanahalli to ITPL. Dude/Lady, there is a 500C virtually every minute!
Take the Bus! It is Cheaper, Comfortable and Good for Health!
Cleanly put, I have only one thing to say to all those people who do not take public transportation when there is an option. You DESERVE to be looted by auto-rickshaw drivers. Yes, overcharging is illegal and should be prevented at all costs. But, there are some things that require some levels of prudence from our side. Face it, our country is a jungle, chaotic, lawless and corrupt. To survive in this system we need to develop our own sets of defences and methods to survive in this jungle. And this is one of those methods. You cannot run crying to the authorities every time asking them to protect you against unruly auto drivers from overcharging you. If auto drivers are guilty of over charging and have to be brought to book, you should be booked for illegally downloading movies and songs too! It works both ways, you see. I guess that we are too pampered and soft (Amul Babies) that we go crying to the nearest shoulder whenever we get PWND. Well, the first thing we should do is to develop some streetsmartness.
I don't think I need to mention that an Air Conditioned silent back engined bus is infinitely more comfortable than a noisy, smoke spewing, bone-jarring auto-rickshaw which exposes you to all the noise and pollution. People complain about buses not taking the route they want, bus stops are far away, buses are overcrowded, staff are rude and ask for change and so on. These are all cosmetic excuses. Auto drivers don't ask for change? Bus staff, especially the BMTC staff are infinitely well mannered when compared to auto drivers! And believe me, taking a BMTC Volvo will get you faster to your destination by at least some 10 - 15 minutes than an auto!
Just not to forget, the Universe's and Nature's most universal law: "No pain, no gain." If you have to earn something, you will have to work for it. Sweat, toil and stink. Nothing has ever been achieved without hard work. If you decide to walk a kilometer every day, you will be rewarded with savings amounting to thousands of Rupees every month and good health! I know people who spend half their month's salary on autos because the bus stop is a kilometer away.
Barring genuine reasons, many people do not take buses simply because it is beneath them to do so, like the dude in Scene 3. They are far too privileged and "high-class" to take the bus, and that they have to rough it out on the road. This overarching sense of privilege and snobby demeanor of thinking that it is below them to take a bus can be said as only to be nonsense. And it will be these same people who complain about overcharging. like the Bimbo in Scene 1 and the Gentlemen in Scene 2. Sure, it is a free country and you have the liberty to choose the auto, but then you will have no voice to complain about overcharging when there is an option for an alternative. But thankfully this is changing, if BMTC's ever-increasing Volvo fleet and jam-packed buses are any indication. But there is an easy way to pay them overchargers back.
Get Back at them Overcharging Auto Drivers!
The first way to get back at overcharging/refusal is to go to the law. Bangaloreans can get back at them by calling 080 25588444/555 to file auto rickshaw related complains, or follow the steps here to complain via SMS. Remember that they might get violent if you try to take pictures or note down the number so try to memorize. But in the long run and the less troublesome way to get back at them overchargers is to... Don't take that auto, take the bus as much as possible. Tell him you will go only by the meter. If not, threaten him that you will take the bus. If he still does not relent, just walk away. Go to the bus stop, wait for the bus to come, get on it and go. That, in metaphorical terms, is showing the middle finger to the auto guy. There! You just gave it back to him! The guy will remember this, and if more and more people start doing the same thing, they will eventually all fall in line. Just demand: "Meter podu, or I will take the bus!"
Take The Buss, Boss! Public Service
Meter Podu! > An informative website for Autorickshaw charges of major Indian cities