They have competition today and yet they refuse to learn. The advent of Ola and Uber are changing the equation for auto-rickshaw owners and drivers in Pune.
The same old tricks, refusals, meter tinkering, long detours and refusals still continue to the dismay of passengers. If the rickshaw drivers don’t get their act together, it may well spell the demise of this popular means of transport in the city. They have been the stamp of the city for decades. It will be a major catastrophe if they get stamped out in the future.
“Undri ke liye meter ke upar bees rupiya,” says the rickshaw driver. And many passengers pay the price as getting another may elicit the same reply.
Regular police clampdowns have had no affect whatsoever on some of these unscrupulous rickshaw drivers. Despite the competition, old habits die hard.
“Thank God for Ola and Uber. No more rickety ricks and bad mouthing drivers for me,” says Hamza Hussain, who lives in Mohammadwadi.
“The rickshaw drivers in my area come to the stand early, gossip and wait. Like a predator they want for big fish. One long fare and then back for the bitching.
“They will only go if you need to go to Camp or further, that is if they do. They set the price and the meter is not put on.
‘Surprisingly, they haven’t changed their habit despite the entry of cab companies. Well, I hope someday they learn a lesson,” he added.
And then there is the meter, if and when in use. In the old days, a little bit of tinkering with the instrument would lead it to run as fast as your heartbeat. Though it is claimed that the new meters cannot be tampered with, there have been cases of this happening too.
“I have seen the prices gallop. I know the rate from Kondhwa to Shankersheth Road as I use a rickshaw regularly,” says Krishna Naik. “This one time, the fare was 50 per cent more. The driver refused to believe me and started abusing. Since, I did not want an ugly incident to arise, I paid up.
“So who is responsible for checking this?”
Sunita Mishra, a techie, prefers Ola to rickshaws.
“I work late sometimes. I prefer the clean cars and polite drivers instead wasting my time on these rickshaw drivers and their tantrums,” she says. “These cabs are inexpensive too and the come to your doorstep,” she adds.
But not all are bad. Suresh Gaikwad, 49, believes that ultimately it is honesty which counts.
“I never refuse a passenger. I am driving the rickshaw to earn money and educate my children,” he says.
“If I cheat, I will pay for it in some other way,” he adds. “Earning the trust of your passenger is very important. If you are pleasant to them, they remember you.
“Those who resort to cheating give us a bad name. All of us are not like that.”
“I have come across some decent drivers in my time,” says Sanjay Deshpande, an executive who lives in Deccan Gymkhana. But something should be done to curb the bad eggs. Just a token clamp by the police won’t do. The errant ones must be caught by sustained tracking down.
But something should be done to curb the bad eggs. Just a token clamp by the police won’t do. The errant ones must be caught by sustained tracking down. With so much traffic on the roads, we should get rickshaws as a safe option instead of a dangerous one.”