After much public outrage over a recent decision to increase auto-rickshaw and taxi fares from June 1, the BJP-led state government has decided to determine a fresh mechanism for fare fixation, and plans to set up a three-member committee for the same.
The fare hike that the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Transport Authority (MMRTA) had cleared earlier this month, however, will not be stayed until the new committee tables its report, and will be implemented as planned.
Diwakar Raote, state transport minister, said, “The fare hike has not been proposed at the level of the state government. It has been proposed by a regulatory authority. Within the current legal framework, since the government has accepted a previous committee’s report, based on which this fare hike has been proposed, it will not be possible to stay the decision. However, auto-rickshaws and taxis will be able to charge the new fare only after they recalibrate their electronic meters.”
Raote added that this would be a temporary hike and the fare would be eventually finalised after the state government receives the recommendations of the new committee.
The MMRTA recently permitted a one-rupee rise in minimum fare, taking the minimum fare for auto-rickshaws to Rs 18 and for taxis to Rs 22. For every subsequent kilometre, MMRTA cleared a tariff of Rs 12.18 as against the existing Rs 11.33 for CNG auto-rickshaws and Rs 14.84 as against the current Rs 13.96 for taxis.
As of now, tariff for auto-rickshaws and taxis is fixed according to the report given by a one-man committee of former bureaucrat PMA Hakeem that the erstwhile Congress-NCP government had accepted in 2012. Among other recommendations, the report calls for a review of fare on May 1 every year.
“I received several letters and representations from various consumer groups and the general public complaining about the planned rise in fare. Based on the Hakim committee report, auto-rickshaw and taxi fares in the city has shot up by 50 per cent in the past three years. I don’t know any person, at least in the government, whose salary has increased by this measure in the same period,” Raote said.
The new committee, which will have to submit its report in six months, will comprise a retired High Court judge, an economic expert, and a retired state transport commissioner.
Shashank Rao, a union leader for auto-rickshaws and taxis, said, “The Hakim committee report has, until now, been very fair to us as a lot of importance has been given to the cost of living index. We had expected the report to stay for at least five years, that is till 2017. It is unfortunate that the new government is trying to stamp its own way of doing things.”