Transport Woes

I was in Chennai recently.

Chennai is known for many good things and is the cultural capital of Tamil Nadu State. It has modernized rather well over the past decade or so, with the soon-to-be-launched MRT being the flagship in efficient transportation.

It is however, not famous for its disorganized public transport system. The bus transport has improved but not the ubiquitous auto-rickshaws on which many people are dependent for their daily commute given that buses are overcrowded and the MRT is yet to start working.

After many years, the government chose to introduce some semblance of order in the auto-rickshaw world by enforcing electronic metering. Previously, the commuters have always been at the mercy of the auto-drivers who would refuse to start their mechanical meters and charge an arbitrary fee for the transport. Passengers have been complaining for many years, and the government of the day would make some noises, but nothing changed. The Traffic Police ignored their enforcement role and the political parties were loath to go after a constituency of voters (the auto-drivers).

Around nine months ago, the government enforced new rules, and for a while things seemed to be getting in order with the auto-drivers charging the electronic fare shown on the display. I was happy a few times when I used the auto-rickshaw services for short commutes (for which I had been charged high rates in the past, not proportionate to the distance travelled).

However, this time around, everything was back to square one. The enforcement has gone missing, and the auto-drivers are back to their old ways. Refusal to take passengers, arbitrary fares, over-charging, rough language – all back on the road, and the passengers cannot do much and the Traffic Police ignore the happenings. This is Old India, and I was not at all surprised because I know that enforcement is the biggest problem faced by India in any endeavour.

So, I again paid more for short commutes, and I could not get autos when I needed them because the drivers refused to take me to the place I wanted to go to.

Welcome to the chaotic Chennai roads again. The traffic has worsened with the rains, and the auto-rickshaws are whizzing past and flouting traffic rules all the time. And, things are back to normal !!!


Vijay Srinivasan
8th November 2014


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