Rambling on….

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So, effective yesterday, the Auto rickshaw fares in Bangalore went up…again. Possibly the first time in history that one was subject to two consecutive days of taxation, albeit in different forms?

I am usually very sympathetic towards the genial auto guy. Yes, they are a rare species and it takes some effort and a lot of luck to find one of those, but they do exist. And for their sake, I support this hike. If you think about it, it is not easy earning one’s livelihood having to spend the entire workday in Bangalore traffic – no one deserves that kinda punishment. So yes, please try and cut them some slack. As salaried folks, we expect the double-digit merit increases that are our birthright, every year. Sometimes, more often than once a year, and we think we are being completely rational and reasonable in our expectations. Of course! I always deserve to be paid more than they pay me! And yet, when these poor guys get their “salary” increases via a fare hike, we are all up in arms against the entire community. You should have seen the number of protest letters to the Editor in today’s newspaper. That doesn’t seem very fair?

It is not like their demand for a fare hike was without basis – there was a substantial increase in the price of fuel by about 20% very recently, and someone’s going to have to pay for that fuel. So it just seems a tad unfair that we label them all sorts of things for wanting better compensation. Yes, there are the bad apples in the lot but more often than not, they are just trying to earn a living like you and me? It is hard to argue that their jobs are at least as stressful as ours, if not more? And the risk element? Surely they deserve some respect (and compensation?) for putting themselves through all of that? So, I don’t care what anyone says, I am happy that they got the increase they deserved, and one that was long pending.

When I first paid the new fare out this morning, I realized the increase was about 30% – now that’s a hike that even an Infosys would be proud of. So maybe this should have been done in phases, but in any case, the government finally woke up and acted. And that got me thinking – would the increase in auto fares over the years be a fair indicator of inflation? When I was in college, the fare per km was Rs 2 – almost one-fifth what it is today. And I know it seems like it, but I am not that old. We are talking less than 15 years here, and that’s quite a change for that short a period of time. However, that change is also very reflective of the “real” inflation we’ve had to negotiate as a country? I mean, there is sufficient reason to believe auto fares would keep pace with inflation – after all, most of the autos in Chennai are owned by the honorable politicians that uphold the law, and their even more respectable cronies? Surely they are going to take advantage of every opportunity they get to make sure the fares keep pace with the rest of the economy? And if I compare what a respectable IT company (which is considered the de facto benchmark for our economy – no clue why) paid a fresh college grad back in 1995 to what they pay today, the ratio seems very comparable to how much auto fares have gone up.

So it just seems like a fair (fare?) distribution from both perspectives. So quit complaining people and pay up! And I hope this increase will at least temporarily encourage my dear, friendly, neighborhood auto dudes to desist from tampering with their meters, asking for a ridiculous “extra” charge for no rational reason, or trying any of the other rotten tricks they typically resort to. Maybe they should try being honest and polite for a change, and they might just pleasantly surprise themselves with how well people respond!

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