• Kol: Operators’ whims at play as auto fare soars high
    Times of India | 24 November 2021
  • KOLKATA: Auto routes across the city have raised fares at least by Rs 2 per stage, even though gas prices have not been revised since October. Auto gas price, which was revised on October 1, stands at Rs 58.21 a litre. But auto operators claimed that loss of earning owing to less passenger demands because of the work-from-home mode and limited reopening of schools had forced them to hike fare.

    In the last few days, autos have brought parity with the bus fare as far as base fare is concerned. In intra-city routes, the entry level fare was raised from Rs 8 to Rs 10 (unofficially by bus operators), following successive hikes of diesel prices. “There has been a tradition that if bus fare rises, auto fare also jumps. For the last few months, auto fare was less than the bus fare. So, we also brought auto fare to the same level,” said Mohammed Dilshad, a member of Behala Auto Route Committee.

    Most other auto routes have cited the spiralling gas prices and inflation, with each route charging anything between Rs 2-Rs 7 more on each stage. LPG gas prices have shot up by 78.5% since the last fare revised officially, said union leaders.

    “When the fares were hiked in 2018 on our route, a litre of auto LPG gas cost Rs 28, but the price has since risen to Rs 58 a litre. “Including oil costs, an auto driver incurs a cost of around Rs 70 per litre,” said an union leader on the Beliaghata-Sealdah route. The union has increased fares from Rs 12 to Rs 15-Rs 17. The Behala Chowrasta-Oxytown route jacked up fares from Rs 11 to Rs 15 and from Rs 9 to Rs 12 between Behala Chowrasta and Shakuntala Park.

    Similarly, the ride from Esplanade to Lohapool has increased from Rs 18-Rs 20 to Rs 23-Rs 25. The Burrabazar-Sealdah route is now charging Rs 15 from Rs 13 previously. The fare for carrying goods has also risen substantially.

    Passengers — a huge section of whom are still reeling under the financial impact of the pandemic—- stated that even after the hike, the fares have hardly been fixed. Since the fares were revised without the sanction of the union centrally, there are fluctuations and whims at play. The evening fare is invariably higher than the morning fare.

    “I paid Rs 15 while travelling to Sealdah. While returning in the evening, I had to shell out Rs 17 from the same stand,” said Ranajoy Mitra from the Raja Rajendra Lal Mitra Lane. Similarly, passengers travelling to Burrabazar from Sealdah shelled out Rs 15. But while returning back, they had to pay Rs 20. For those travelling from Behala Chowrasta to Behala police station in an auto, the fare for the 2km journey was Rs 11. In the late evening, the auto drivers charged Rs 13-Rs 14.

    The popular Salt Lake Karunamotee to Ultadanga route is currently charging Rs 20. The previous official fare was Rs 16. “We are relieved since the post-lockdown phase saw them charging Rs 30,” said Alok Banerjee, a Salt Lake resident. The Ultadanga-Airport route is charging Rs 30 per passenger. “This route did not increase fares now. But they have retained their post-lockdown fares unlike other routes,” said a regular passenger.

    Among the routes against whom complaints have come are the Jadavpur-Taratala, Taratala-Thakurpukur, Ultadanga-Karunamoyee and Ganesh Talkies-Phoolbagan routes. Subhajit Sengupta, a commuter, to Twitter to share his angst. “You told us that autos will operate with old fare. But they are not following your instructions. As for example, auto drivers of Taratala Thakurpukur demanding additional fares as random as upto Rs 10 even when carrying 4 pax,” he wrote.
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