In Bangalore, it’s not auto-matic

Most auto drivers in Bangalore are jerks. I said MOST, because there are some who are good.
Auto guys are stupid too, but that’s another discussion.

Observe auto drivers, especially in areas where there are auto stands and you’ll see how they’ll wave passengers away, how they’ll ask for more money (during the day), and how they just don’t care. You won’t get proper change back because sometimes the guys just don’t carry spare change. If it’s raining or at night, then all bets are off and meters are like the appendix in the human body.

Then, there’s the whole meter being doctored thingamie. I’ve noticed a few times that the meter starts moving quicker and I tell the auto guy and he says, Yeah, it’s not working properly. This piece of information is available only when you confront the guy, otherwise you’ll probably pay more.

In contrast, in Mangalore, you sit inside the auto and tell the driver where you want to go and he’ll take you. He’ll even give you exact change because he’s got a change purse like bus conductors do. Fast forward to Hyderabad and the auto drivers do take you for a ride from time to time but mostly they’re not as bad as Bangalore. Chennai auto drivers don’t use meters, so if you’re new to the city, prepare to shell out the big bucks. Also, Chennai auto drivers give their Bangalore counterparts a run for their money when it comes to rudeness.

Back to Bangalore again. If you arrive by train at Cantonment station, you’ll see that sometimes you cannot get autos in the pre-paid counter because even if there is a traffic policeman, the auto guys stay away or pick up passengers before the stand.

If you’ve travelled in an auto recently, you would’ve noticed that the ID card of the driver is posted in the auto. That’s a positive step but it doesn’t help if you don’t let people know what to do with the information. How about a sign on all autos with a number to call to report problems? Taxi drivers for IT companies have this on their cars. It would work.

Also, when you have the number inside the auto, you can’t complain if an auto driver refuses to come to a certain place. You can only take down the license plate number, if you’re quick.

I think that people should be encouraged to sit inside autos and then tell the guy where they are going. I can understand that some auto guys don’t want to go far away from their home late at night. But, if they have problems during the day, they shouldn’t be driving autos.

Now, if I can get the power to do something. *Evil laugh*.

PS: Feel free to leave comments about what you think should be done to improve the situation.


19 thoughts on “In Bangalore, it’s not auto-matic

  1. Hi Percy,

    Have you considered becoming an auto-driver yourself. Could make a difference. For staters get yourself a porche-auto instead of one of those dirty boneshakers.

    Just being fectious. I have had pretty hair-raising experiences as a tourist in India, and some wonderfully humorours times too – like when the guy asked me to choose his auto as it was air-contioned, broken roof with a gale blowing through it.


  2. So true! Especially about the Chennai Auto drivers. And remember, I got a 10% discount in Mangalore. :-)
    PS: I’m not sure if this is going to start another war. :-P

  3. yes, auto guys in blr are really irritating. there was a wing called ‘auto unit’ in RTO some time back, dunno if it’s still existing. there were some ph. nos. floating thru mails n smses which u cud contact if u got into problem with an auto guy. i guess these are the nos. –, not sure though..

    yes, in south canara (udupi n m’lore) auto guys are very polite. guess why? the public transport is very good there, ppl hardly need the ricks.

    try using BMTC, it’s not all that bad.

  4. Leela — I don’t think my becoming an auto driver will solve many problems but if you’re willing to sponsor a regular A/C auto, I might give it a shot ;-).

    Shrilatha — Thanks for the numbers, will try them when I really get ticked off sometime :-). BMTC is not bad but it isn’t the best option in all cases either.

    PS: No, Niranj, I don’t think you’ll start another war.

  5. In Mumbai too the auto drivers and cabbies usually don’t cheat. They take you by the shortest route possible, charge by the meter and return you the exact change. In B’lore, they usually don’t return the Rs. 1-2 change saying they don’t have change. I personally feel that compared to other cities, people in Mumbai realize the value of money and also the public transport in Mumbai is very good. Delhi is similar to Chennai; they don’t use meters!

    Probably, it’s the “swalpa adjust maadi” mindset in B’lore that the average common man doesn’t argue with the auto drivers. Maybe, once the Metro comes in B’lore, the auto drivers menace will be solved to a great extent, but that’s a long way off…

  6. Hemant: I’ve never lived in Mumbai, so I don’t know much about the city. It seems like a nice place to be.

    About the ‘adjust-maadi’ mindset, I think that it’s more a question of the auto guys taking advantage of the demand and the lack of information on what to do or how to complain than anything else.

  7. You think the auto drivers are bad in bangalore ? You havent seen Kerala. Chennai, obviously is the worst. About the number to call in case of emergency, I have an interestin tale here. My dad’s car was hit by a call centre taxi belonging to accenture. When my dad called up the number, the person on the other line told my dad “sir what can we do ? You drive carefully” ! !!!!!

  8. I did mention that Chennai drivers are bad too. About Kerala, I wouldn’t know, since I’ve not been there long enough.

    About the call centre drivers, ah, that’s another story. It’s surprising though that your Dad got that reaction when he called the number. I would’ve thought that they’d be a bit more supportive.

  9. Bangalore drivers are one of the worst humans, I have ever come across. One day , I asked a moron to take me to ‘east end’ and when reached at the point where I wanted to get off, I asked him to stop. This moron dint listen and stopped about a KM away and said the point where he stopped is east end and the place where i had asked him to stop is called “plyover”. Even if I had made the mistake of wrongly quoting a place, is it not his duty to stop where I asked him to? I had to get down where he let me off and had to walk back a KM. I tried to argue with this guy, but his looks indicated he was a local thug or a rowdy. So just to avoid a bad episode, I let him go paying whatever the meter indicated. On many occasions, I have seen meters that are tampered and when asked, these thugs are not bothered and are casual about it. I have personally seen even foriegn tourists harrased by these auto thugs even in presence of a cop near Garuda mall (A shopping mall in bangalore). In Kerala , though I have not travelled extensively, I have found the drivers very courteous and polite and the people there are less tolerant to over-charging and abusive behaviour.

  10. The auto system in bangalore should be going through a training center before they are handed the licenses……….i think in another 2 years once the metro starts the auto drivers will undergo a major shortage of passengers.
    I personally feel that the traffic police/rto have done nothing towards curbing the blatant cheating of customers by the auto drivers.
    Even if you complaint it is taken very lightly by the authorities.
    On one side we talk about bangalore being one the most advanced/cosmopolitan cities in india……….which i presume shuld have at least a safe/passenger friendly transportation system…………….but whats the point…… one cares …….so what if the auto does not have 5 rupees change…..lets leave it…… what if he abuses you ……..cant fight back or complaint because he is a local guy…… what if his meter is doctored…..who do i complaint to…………so what if he charges you more on a rainy day……….it goes on and on………….
    Its time we took this issue of auto drivers seriously …………and taught them a lesson.

  11. I read someplace that the Government wants to do away with autos… ..they are the major reasons for, if not all, most of the traffic jams. God ! I would be happy to see that day.

    Till then we learn to survive. Unfortunately I have to take an auto every day to work and back home, and after two years I feel i could do a theses on Bangalore’s auto drivers.

    The way out…. (I have succeeded with this a couple of times so … this I guess should work.. provided u have some time to spare..)
    get into the auto, if he refuses to take u to ur destination…. Don’t get down… just refuse to get down. they would then come up with excuses that they are running out of gas… but don’t budge….
    after 10 mints max .. trust me that would take u where u want to go.

    Probably if more of us fight out for our rights.. Bangalore could be a better place to live..

  12. I had an experience last night in Bangalore with an auto driver who – unknown to me – was drunk – he took me by the wrong route and when I questioned it, he stopped the auto and began to fight. I gave it back to him in equal measure and before the fists began to fly, another auto driver came by and I hailed him. He was the exact opposite of the evil beast I was sparring with; a gem of a man who took me where I wanted to go at 12:00 midnight. As for the loser, i, for some reason paid him more than was agreed upon – possibly an incentive for him to get drunk and drive himself and his auto out of his miserable life.

    Please avoid autoricks after 8:30 p.m in Bangalore

  13. I wish there were an online system where we can check the distance, the shortest route, and the auto fare between the two places. I travel from fun world to bangmane tech park everday. The meter fare comes anythign between RS 62- 85.

    Most of the time i do not ask the driver not to put the meter and just pay 70 Rs. Howevr i did face rude auto drivrs, who insisted on using the metr and had me pay by the meter. In moments of hurry and urgency we do not have much choice but to board to board a auto with an arrogant and rude driver.

    I searching for a responsive complaint number, if any one has please let me know.

  14. A few days ago i had to travel from Madivala to NGV in the morning, around 6 O’clock.
    I know the normal auto rate, it would come to 25 Rs in the meter, but not more.
    I went towards the auto stand, and was immediately surrounded by a cloud of autowallah’s. I asked the rate, thinking 1 and a half rate would be fine since it was early in the morning, and was prepared to give up to 35 Rs.
    The response i got from the autowallah’s when i queried for the rate to NGV was :

    100 Rs Sir

    Needless to say i walked. It was only a 35 minute walk, without much traffic, early in the morning.

  15. I have a very good reason to believe that the average auto driver in bangalore is making much more than an average software engineer.

    An average software engineer gets maybe 18-23 k/month, out of which let us deduct a house rent of 5-7k, miscellaneous charges of 5-7k for food, other expenses etc.

    Meanwhile an autodriver makes say 50 Rs * 10-15 Rides ie 500-750 Rs /day, that comes to 15k – 22.5K. His monthly
    expense is much less, maybe 2-3K / month only.

    So avoid autos, take a hike instead.

  16. Aana: I think the worst place to get an auto, paradoxically, is an auto stand. The guys there are typically interested only in charging steep rates. You did the right thing.

    AutoMaton: Not sure if your calculations are accurate–the expenses of an autodriver will be more than 2-3 k/month. Also, a lot of auto drivers don’t own their autos or have to pay loans, so what they finally make will not be in the same range as software engineers.

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