Friday, July 22, 2011

An article on Delhi Rickshaws

This article was found on "The Australian" website but quotes an article from "The Times" (UK):

Delhi rickshaws to get GPS upgrade

• Francis Elliott
• From: The Times
• July 22, 2011 1:36PM

Delhi's rickshaws will be fitted with GPS technology to reduce fare gouging and to increase passenger safety. Source: AP

As any visitor to Delhi knows to their cost, the city's auto-rickshaw drivers can have an elastic attitude to fares.

Meters in the three-wheelers are more often than not "broken" and the range of extra charges levied at the last moment is as creative as it is extensive. Even when the meter is working the routes have a tendency to become suspiciously serpentine.

With many drivers paid less than 5000 rupees ($104) a month, it is perhaps not surprising that some take an entrepreneurial approach to pricing.

Today, however, a court hearing is due to rule that each of the city's auto-rickshaws must be installed with a global positioning system (GPS) which, in theory, will make overcharging impossible.

The devices, which are essentially sat-navs that cost about 7500 rupees, will also have a panic button, a feature that the city's transport authority insists will increase the security of passengers.

Critics said that the plan was unfair and unworkable and wondered how a bureaucracy that struggled to issue paper permits would keep track of 55,000 vehicles in one of the largest cities in the world.

Widespread scepticism notwithstanding, it seems likely that a deadline for installation of the sat-navs set for the end of the month will be enforced after a series of strikes by drivers in May and June was called off by unions.

Arvinder Singh Lovely, the Delhi Transport Minister, has defended the innovation.

"Once the meters are linked with GPS, every movement of the autos will be recorded and monitored. It is a step forward in providing good and customer-friendly services to the commuters."

Supporters said that rickshaw sat-navs, which connect to a central server, will make it possible to check if the driver is taking the shortest route. Mr Lovely said that the panic button would be valued particularly by women commuters in a city where sexual harassment on public transport is not uncommon.

Mounting a last-ditch attack on the introduction of the sat-navs is Nyaya Bhoomi, a charity that works with drivers, known in India as "autowallahs". Praveen Agarwal, the lawyer who will be representing a group of 250 drivers in Delhi High Court tomorrow, said he would argue that it would be unconstitutional to force drivers to spend up to two months' wages on a device.

The charity said that overcharging would continue for as long as contractors, police and financiers prey on drivers, who rent their vehicles and receive only a fraction of their takings. Commuter groups fear that the devices will fail to improve relations between drivers and fares.


Copyright 2011 News Limited. All times AEST (GMT +10).

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