Indira S. Somani, journalist, PhD

The “autos” and their meters

I was out two nights ago buying a tripod and light-kit for my camera.  We were in Gandhi Nagar, a shopping district in Bangalore, but not close to my apartment complex.  The faculty van dropped us (me and another faculty member, William, although he is Indian) at the corporation (as it’s called) intersection.  We slowly crossed the street as that alone is a skill that I need to acquire in India.  After not being able to hail a an “auto” rickshaw William and I walked around until an auto stopped for us.  The auto wanted to charge 40 rupees without running the meter.  This is less than a dollar, which means nothing to me.  But that’s like taking a cab in New York city and the cabbie saying pay this flat amount without running the meter.  I’ve only seen that with transporation to and from the airport.  The autos are supposed to run the meter.  I was thankful we got an auto and were on our way to R.K. Photo Guide.  After I bought the tripod and light kit, William hailed another auto.  This driver wanted 150 rupees as a flat rate and would also not run the meter.  Again, 150 rupees amounts to just over $3, which is nothing for me.  But for the average Bangalorean that’s a lot of money.  According to one website, the official charge should be seven rupees per kilometer with minimum charge being fourteen rupees for first two kilometers. But I’m also told that the meters don’t always function properly, so you might even be better off with a set fare.  The real issue is that during rush hour there are not enough cabs and definitely not enough auto rickshaws to transport people home.  To get a cab, you have to book it in advance.  After trying several cab companies, I was told a cab would not be available before 10pm– it was 7:30pm when we were leaving the camera shop.