Just how many auto-rickshaws are there in Hyderabad?
It is now close to two years since we first mapped the share autorickshaw routes in Hyderabad. The enthusiasm with which people contributed information for that map made us realize how important autorickshaws are for people to get around the city. However, it was the appearance of a number of smart phone app based auto rickshaw services in 2014 that prompted us to re-consider it as an area of research. Beginning today we will be sharing our preliminary findings through a series of blog posts.The first question that we attempted to answer for ourselves was exactly how many autorickshaws and autorickshaw drivers are there in Hyderabad? Our attempts to answer that question led us into several blind alleys and we began to realize the complexity of the autorickshaw industry.
Data on the number of licensed auto drivers in the city is not easy to find. A number of auto drivers hold either two-wheeler or four-wheeler commercial licenses. Some of the drivers we interviewed claim that this is because the costs of application for three-wheeler commercial license is exorbitant and often exceeds Rs.10,000, inclusive of bribery charges and processing fee of agents.
With regards to auto rickshaws, the numbers available with different agencies of government are inconsistent. News reports following the release of 20, 000 new auto permits announced in 2012, suggest their numbers within GHMC to be 97,357. According to the numbers mentioned in various government orders (GOs) over the last few years, the tally of passenger auto rickshaws would either be 93, 626 or 97,418 or somewhere in between. A survey conducted by the Mission for Elimination of Poverty in Municipal Areas (MEPMA) in 2013 puts the total number of autos in the twin cities at 2, 00,000.
These inconsistencies are partly due to lack of clarity in government orders as to the area being referred to Some of them refer to Hyderabad district, others refer to the GHMC and yet others to the larger contiguous urban agglomeration which includes parts of Ranga Reddy and Medak districts. The best estimate for now, is anecdotal, based on interviews with union leaders, and puts the number at 1, 20,000[i] auto rickshaws or so within the GHMC area.
Even as we continued our efforts to gain clarity on these numbers, we requested commuters in the city to send us questions about auto rickshaws that they always wanted to ask but didn’t know whom to ask. We received a number of questions and set about finding the answers. In our search for answers for commuters’ questions, we interviewed Leaders of prominent unions in the city; Officials at the Regional Transport Authority (RTA); Officers of Hyderabad Traffic Police (HTP) and Auto rickshaw drivers themselves. We also conducted a comprehensive survey on the everyday economics of operating an auto rickshaw with 50 auto drivers from different parts of the city. Not surprisingly, some of the drivers in turn asked us questions that they always wanted to ask commuters. Here we share two lists of questions: one from commuters and one from autorickshaw drivers.
Questions from Commuters:
- What is a permit? How is it different from a license?
- What is the process of applying for a permit to ply the autorickshaw?
- What is the socioeconomic background of autorickshaw drivers ?
- Do auto drivers have any knowledge of transport laws and regulations?
- Why do auto rickshaw drivers refuse to take passengers to certain areas/ localities in the city?
- Why is it that the auto meter fares always increase whenever there is an increase in petrol cost and never decrease whenever there is a decrease in the cost?
- Why do auto drivers not turn on the meter and bargain with customers? What are the factors that make an auto driver demand exorbitant amount of money?
- What percentage of auto rickshaws in Hyderabad has tampered meters?
- Who are the people responsible for the current state of the autorickshaw services ? What is the role of the autorickshaw service in the urban passenger transportation sector ?
- How will the Metro and the increasing influence of taxi companies affect lives of auto rickshaw drivers?
Questions from Drivers:
- Why are we portrayed as ‘thieves’ by the media and the public?
- Why do certain customers refuse to go by the meter, even when auto drivers are willing to take passengers by the meter?
- Why are auto drivers straight away attacked for minor collisions on the road?
- Why should we pay Rs 3000 – Rs 5000 for renewing the insurance certificate every year when we can’t even avail of the insurance for damages to the vehicle? Why do the police refuse to register our FIRs?
- Why do the traffic police click our pictures when we are dropping or picking up customers and challan us?
[i] Interview with leaders of Telangana Auto Driver’s Joint Action Committee (TADJAC) and the Indian Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU) affiliated Progressive Auto and Motor Worker’s Union – 3rd and 13th March.
Post by Ojas Shetty with inputs from the HUL Team.
The auto-rickshaw research was conducted primarily by Ojas Shetty and Harsha Devulapalli.
This is the first in a series of posts on Auto-rickshaws.