Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Please ask for exact fare

I am perpetually at loggerheads with Mumbai’s yellow and black taxi and rickshaw drivers. They think it is their moral duty to annoy and anger me.

Here’s a recent incident. I hired a rickshaw near my house and told the driver I had to go to a bakery nearby and return. (yeah, I love to walk but it was really too hot!)

On our return, as the fare was Rs 15, I gave him two Rs 10 notes. Since our taxi and rickshawwallahs never have any change on them, he insisted I give him change.

“I have three Rs 2 coins. Do you at least have Re 1?” Me.

“No,” rickshawwallah.

“How come you guys always walk out of home without even a rupee in your pocket? Take a rupee less now,” Me.

“I will not. It was a return fare.” Rickshawwallah.

“So you will take more money from me but not carry change!” Furious me.

Rickshawwallah drives away.

I was fuming. I went to the grocer nearby where I managed to get change. Now I only had to find the rickshawwallah. It didn’t take long. The stupid man had parked his vehicle at the same spot where I had hired him.

I marched upto him, handed over a Re 1 coin and took back a Rs 2 coin.
I walked home wickedly happy with my little victory!

Just why do they think they can get away with everything? First they hold the city to ransom each time there is a hike in petrol and diesel prices – even taxiwallahs, most of whose vehicles run on CNG – demanding a rise in their fares. And then there is always that issue of dirty and old vehicles, unworthy of being driven.

I have even been in an accident when a taxi’s brakes failed and it rammed into a BEST bus that had stopped at a traffic signal.

It’s no secret that most of Mumbai’s taxis and rickshaws are driven around by drivers in shifts. The vehicles are always in need of maintenance. But the owners only care about the money they earn. So passengers are forced to travel in these terrible vehicles, some driven by men barely out of their teens, and holding new licences.

It’s all very well to say these drivers are poor people come here to make a livelihood. Hey, I am working too! What gives that man the right to disrespect me and take more of my hard earned money on the pretext of being poor and earning his livelihood? Why should I part with even a few rupees each time because of some arrogant rickshaw or taxi driver looking for easily earned money? And before I am criticized, let me say I have often paid more money that what is meant, without cribbing. But it has become a habit for most of these drivers to demand more money. This is what angers me.

Luckily, we now have a phone number to complain about such issues. The transport ministry has announced that it will introduce a toll-free number for registering complaints against errant taxi-drivers. The number will also be applicable for rickshaw drivers who misbehave with passengers.

I can’t wait for it to start.