Chennai: A city where auto-rickshaws lay down the rules


People may bicker on religion, language, or anything under the sun but if there is one viewpoint both tourists and locals in Chennai agree upon, it is this: Auto rickshaws in this city are a horrible experience!

In any other part of India one flags down a taxi or an auto and boards inside. Then they inform the driver of the destination and the man at the wheels starts the meter and takes you there. In Chennai you’ll find that we do it a bit differently.

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I raise my hand to flag down an empty auto. He stops and enquires: Where?

I mutter in my most persuasive tone, “Greams Road, Apollo Hospital.”

He demands an aggressive pitch, “Rs. 200.”

The distance is barely 5 kms and the normal meter rate would not exceed Rs. 75.

You are desperate and plead,” Rs.125.”

Finally you agree to pay Rs. 150 (twice the rate actually) and the driver gives you the worst journey possible.


He keeps ranting as the tuk-tuk speeds on the crowded street

“Only this week the government increased the petrol rate. We are constantly harassed by the traffic cops and all our earnings go into paying bribes. I don’t own this vehicle and it is on rental. You can’t guess how high the daily rent is.”

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The long tirade gets on to you. You tell him, “Life is not easy for me either. I work in a job that pays too little and there is no job security too”.

You finally reach Apollo Hospital and fork out a two hundred rupee note. The auto driver will most likely not have change. You will be lucky to get back Rs. 40.

Any interaction with an auto-driver is as tough as a job interview. The inquisition never stops. “Where do you want to go? Is it near the Police station or the lake? If I have to go inside the colony then I will charge Rs. 20 over the agreed rate.”

It seems like the driver would do anything to raise the fare.

What makes Chennai autos so exorbitant and so unruly? For one, the meter is never used. Three years back, the state government tried to enforce an electronic meter. There was initial compliance before the auto drivers fell back on their old tricks.


“Sir, with petrol costs rising all the time how can we afford the meter rate? The government should revise the rate with every petrol-rate increase.” This tribe is grouchy as ever!

I guess they have their own issues, but importuning persistently makes every auto ride in Chennai a bitter experience. By the way, the rate per kilometer for an auto ride, is more than a km ride in a plane. Yet there is no end to the grumpiness.

Some things never change, like the dog’s tail and the Chennai autowalas!

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