Why do auto drivers keep going on strike?

By January 16, 2014 Autos, Commuting No Comments
Pic courtesy Karnataka Photo News

Pic courtesy Karnataka Photo News

Every time there’s a price increase in the government mandated auto rickshaw meter, the middle class daggers invariably come out. When the auto unions exhort the drivers to go on a strike (most recently when the LPG prices were raised by Rs. 11/liter), the daggers get sharper.

Someone posted the following on Facebook

There is some fundamental issue with autos in Bangalore. The fares are higher than Bombay Delhi Pune. My sense is that the standard taxi fare in Bombay is lower than the auto fare in Bangalore. Yet the attitude sucks n they are going on strike ? What’s up?

After a friend tagged me on the discussion, I responded with the following..

On Sun we were at a favorite lunch spot, the manager alerted us that they’ll be raising prices soon due to the upcoming hike in LPG prices. This brings us to point #1.

  1. A commercial establishment can raise prices in response to rising costs; auto rickshaw rates are set by the govt/RTA so all they can do is protest/lobby.
  2. The recent fare hike (Rs. 25 minimum and 13/km) tips Bangalore past Chennai (at 12/km).
  3. Most people paint the entire auto rick community with a broad brush but we believe that at least 25-30% of the 1.5+ lakh auto drivers go on meter, are polite decent folk (and we are working to onboard them into the mGaadi network).
  4. Most of the time when an auto driver refuses a trip, it’s because he has his own heuristics (which areas he knows, which trip will get him an easy follow-on trip without incurring ‘dead miles’, etc.). In short, heuristics for daily income determinism.
  5. When a drivers asks, say Rs. 30, extra during rush hour in a traffic snarl, he’s trying to compensate for the reduced income/hour. Contrast this with Olacabs’ rush hour surcharge or Uber’s hybrid pricing of “Rs 2 per min” on top of the basic “Rs 18/km”. As commercial operators, Ola and Uber can legitimately adopt this kind of pricing whereas the RTA-mandated auto drivers cannot.


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