Fact is that I have not only sympathy but also the highest respect for that indispensable, though noisy, tribe of Bangalore – the autorickshaw driver.
Think about it.
He drives the worst contraption known to the history of the automotive industry.
He drives on some of the worst roads known to mankind since Macadam did his thing.
Unprotected in an open cage, his lungs imbibe quantities of carbon monoxide, greater than any other user of Bangalore’s atmosphere.
He· suffers the daily ignominy of being the least respected member of traffic – everyone loves to slag on him.
And it is not just the bureaucracy which has failed him.
Generally, he cannot afford to own his vehicle. He hires it from some rich bloke who has the political clout to get licences. He pays the rich bloke over Rs. 100/- per day without the slightest guarantee that he will earn that much from passengers. The owner does not pay for the upkeep of the auto – the auto driver does.
Therefore, he pays for (1) the petrol, (2) the maintenance and (3) the daily hire charge. Then he makes money for food and to educate his children.
And when the government blithely hikes the price of fuel, the government blithely loses no time in hiking its fares – Indian Airlines, Indian Railways, Indian Oil.
But the auto driver cannot.
If he goes on strike, he is accused of profiteering. If he defies the strike, he is beaten up. If he surreptitiously charges passengers extra, he is arrested.
Let’s face it. We have no reliable buses in this city. Not everyone of us can afford our own vehicle. And the auto driver is about the only guy we can depend upon to take us from here to there.
And as for tourists, who else will take them shopping and to dinner?
Considering that most of the customers of our retail establishments are our distinguished visitors, the only piece of metal that auto drivers should be given is a medallion.