A comment you might want to respond to

A few days ago, one of our commentators wrote in:

I have stayed in Chennai for almost six years now. I still cannot help noticing the differences between this city and all the other cities I have lived in. Clans such as auto-drivers will always loot at the slightest opportunity given. But I have never ever seen an entire city so apathetic and complacent about such issues. And this autocratic buffoonery affects the common man the most!

I really don’t understand why, unlike other cities, people here don’t make an issue out of this. Because it actually is a big issue.

Another unfortunate consequence of this is that it makes a perfectly nice city appear extremely hostile to newcomers. People who visit Chennai from cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata or Bangalore instantly want to leave this place. Believe me on this, for I have met dozens of such people.

Please understand that I am not indulging in a diatribe here. If the people of Chennai really love their hometown, they should start working on its weaknesses.

Ritwik Banerjee

22 Comments so far

  1. nandhu (unregistered) on October 5th, 2007 @ 4:23 am

    oh, wait. i forgot to mention that this was in response to my post on how autowallahs were fleecing passengers during the bandh.

  2. K.Shyam (unregistered) on October 5th, 2007 @ 10:22 am

    “But I have never ever seen an entire city so apathetic and complacent about such issues. And this autocratic buffoonery affects the common man the most!”

    I think this observation is highly relative ! For example, there are reports, and yes, some of my friends have even faced it too; being robbed by auto drivers in Bangalore, being beaten up by auto drivers for refusing to pay the fare.

    Another relative observation is that when a friend of mine went to Delhi for an interview, the auto driver did not speak English and my friend did not know Hindi ! He claims that the auto driver looted him since he was a visitor to that place ! Now, can we say that people in Bangalore and Delhi are being complacent about issues like these ?

    Perhaps, the issue of being complacent comes in because there is always a viable alternative. If auto drivers fleece, there is always a public transport with numbers and routes written, both in English and Tamil (Unlike Bombay, where I was clearly stumped because the numbers were written in Marathi!!).

    I am yet to see an Indian in a service sector who does not want to make a fast buck in desperate times. Try this simple experiment. Get into a taxi or auto anywhere in India and say airport or railway station ASAP. 9/10 times the driver would charge you extra. Here is one such exception: http://karthikeyan-kk.blogspot.com/2007/10/some-notes-from-last-trip-to-coimbatore.html

    I am not sure that the common man living in the city even notices these things ! A visitor may, but then again, as the saying goes, when a visitor comes in, he would do better to blend in, be a Roman, and do the same things that those living here do ;-)

    “If the people of Chennai really love their hometown, they should start working on its weaknesses”
    This is true in any place. For example, there is a retired commissioner in Noida who is fighting to clear the garbage. There is this iFix initiative in Madras itself !

    If someone is judging a city just by these things, then most ladies will be afraid to go up north, given its propensity for crimes against women ! I think there was recent news item about an atrocity against a women in a Delhi Public transport bus.

    “People who visit Chennai from cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata or Bangalore instantly want to leave this place. Believe me on this, for I have met dozens of such people.”

    In case no one knew about it, the saying outside India is just this “People from Kerala and TN adapt themselves to a surrounding, people from anywhere else in India try to adapt the surrounding to their desires”. And given the fact that the people adapt themselves to the surroundings, it would be hard for anyone to adapt the surrounding to their desires !!

    And most of these complaints are fairly one-sided. Imagine the plight of guys who do not know how to speak Hindi and go to North India !!


    PS: Disclaimer: I have not been living in Madras for the past 10 years !!

  3. Pisipati Sriram (unregistered) on October 5th, 2007 @ 10:25 am

    Auto drivers fleecing commuters is common everywhere. Meter tampering, overcrowding, double driving, refusal to ply autos to short distances, demanding double fares by night fall etc are commonplace in many cities and towns.

    Sometime ago, the Andhra Pradesh government made an attept to introduce digital meters in autos following a rash of public complaints of rampant meter tampering by autos and excess fare charging in Hyderabad city. The departments concerned issued orders and even set deadlines for the implementation of digital meters in autos to prevent exploitation of commuters.

    Soon auto unions, supported by some political parties, went on a strike for a week resisting and vehemently opposing digital meters. Deadlines were extended two three times for installation of digital meters. Nothing happened.

    The government ducked underpressure and kept the matter in limbo. Meanwhile, fleecing of commuters by three wheelers continue, with the govt remaining as helpless as the commuters who are being exploited.

    When some political parties are openly supporting installation of digital meters in autos meant to prevent cheating of auto users, and the government yielding in to their pressures, exploitation of people continues.

    People obviously remain complacent in such a rotten exploitative set-up. No city can be an exception to this competitive degeneration and decomposition, so long as a vitiated system prevails.

  4. Ritwik Banerjee (unregistered) on October 5th, 2007 @ 11:46 am

    You took my comment and turned it into the typical debate: “my city is better”. There are loads of things I like about Chennai; after six years, it is kind of becoming my city! And there are loads of things I hate about Delhi (the city where I grew up) and Kolkata (my home town). Saying, “Ok, I am bad, but then so is he” is not a solution for any of these places.

    I was really hoping that you would take my criticism positively. There are thousands of Chennai’ites who read this blog . . . I urge all of us (yes, all of us, and not ‘all of them’!) to raise our voices for the betterment of our city.

    You may not like my perspective, I may not like yours. We need not agree on everything. But there is some truth in every criticism. We can extract that truth out of them, and act on it.

    I hope you do not consider this to be flame. I certainly have no intention to make it one.

  5. Chinnamani (unregistered) on October 5th, 2007 @ 11:56 am

    It’s rotten I tell ya..

    Bad roads, Bad drivers, Bad Food
    No place to walk, No place to bike
    No good net, No good malls
    No good food, No good shelter
    No good autowallahs, No good politicians
    No good metblogs
    No QOL (Quality of Life)

    This is Chennai today

  6. Dhans (unregistered) on October 5th, 2007 @ 12:05 pm

    What you people have done to make the city better?????

  7. Ritwik Banerjee (unregistered) on October 5th, 2007 @ 12:05 pm

    Just to ensure that there’s less confusion,I should mention that my earlier comment in this list was a reply not to the post by Nandhu Sundaram, but to the first comment on it by K Shyam.

  8. Balaji (unregistered) on October 5th, 2007 @ 1:27 pm

    I would say ritwik was correct on saying about the auto’s in the city…even I have heard many outsiders complaining about the auto…even people from the same state,forget about other state ppl…
    and shyam’s reply also got a point to accept, the problem lies everywhere, in every city…what shyam said was 100% true…i completely agree with him…
    but as ritwik said the “there is some truth in every criticism”…its reallly true that we have a problem with auto guys in our city…
    Its better to accept the fault on our side(which is always difficult) and work to improve it, rather passing the blame on other cities…
    everyone loves to live in a city which doesn’t have any problems,but unfortunately we don’t have a city like that here… :-)

    its the people of the city who should take responsibility to make it a better place to live..hope it happens…

  9. Anonymous Coward (unregistered) on October 5th, 2007 @ 2:13 pm

    The are few reasons why auto drivers fleece people in Chennai.

    1. Communism = BAD
    Most auto drivers belong CPI communist unions.
    If the communist auto drivers were good, they would be charging fares on meter but they don’t. This proves that communists are the real robber barrons, crony capitalists etc.

    2. PERMITS/LICENCES = Restriction of Transport Supply

    The situation is further worsened by licensing regime for Auto. It is very difficult to get a permit/license for Auto in Chennai and it involves bribes too.

    3.NO RULE OF LAW = Higher Cost
    Even if you get a license/permit to you will not be able to run your Auto. You have to join a stand. Depending upon the business you will need to pay anywhere from 25000 to 1/2 lakhs to join the communist Auto union. You cannot put your auto nearby other union auto stands or take passengers near the other union auto stand, you will be threatened.

    There will no protection for you and your auto. For protection you will have to join the union or you should have the support of local goon to park your Auto at a particular place. Both the options cost you money. The auto driver will recover these costs from the passenger

    Along with these there is a minor cost component of oil prices.
    CNG/LNG seems to be cheap.

    See that you increase the available supply of transport options – Autos, Taxis, Buses.
    You will get a better travel at better rates.

  10. tsk tsk (unregistered) on October 5th, 2007 @ 3:44 pm

    you gotta treat fire with fire…

    get them off the street.. thats the only way to treat them a lesson. Or people in general have to boycott auto rickshaws

  11. nandhu (unregistered) on October 5th, 2007 @ 6:54 pm


    should clarify:

    i used your comment to generate the debate. i never took a stand. i agree on a few issues with you too. dont think in twisted your comment in any fashion. that was never the intention.

  12. K.Shyam (unregistered) on October 5th, 2007 @ 7:55 pm

    Hey Ritwik;
    You got me wrong man ! Firstly, I never intended to do a my city is good your city is bad thingy here.
    Secondly, all I tried to do was a kind of “trying to pick the mind of those who hate”. What I was implying is the one sided way in which the hate seems to arise even when there are the same kind of problems in those places from where the haters come from !

    As for citizens gathering together to do something, I think I have already explained as to why it does not/may not happen, especially in case of autos !


  13. Ganesh Srinivasan (unregistered) on October 6th, 2007 @ 7:14 am


    I used to be paranoid about the behaviour of auto drivers – right from 1990 for decades – as I got out of Chennai Central station [I am from Tamilnadu and I live in Bangalore since 1977]. Hence for a few days trip to / stay in Chennai, I used to drive down using my car from Bangalore – I would have clocked over 150,000 kms – just for this alone

    Retrospective, I feel all that irritation was worthless – as just compare the costs of me driving down 150,000 kms trying to avoid paying the auto driver, what he demands – REALLY WORTHLESS INDEED

    Having said that, the situation is no different in Bangalore – anyone having experience of hiring an auto from Bangalore City / any other railway station would agree with me – BELIEVE ME WHEN I SAY THIS, SITUATION IS VERY SIMILAR TO THE EXPERIENCES NARRATED ABOUT CHENNAI

    Don’t forget such arrogant behaviour of auto drivers and even ‘city taxi’ drivers at Bangalore airport

    In Bangalore, people don’t crib about this – as the auto fare becomes a part of the travel budget


    Let me narrate my experiences with City Taxi [similar to Call Taxi in Chennai]. The city taxi was introduced to be a ‘courteous service’ initially and people didn’t mind paying extra ‘for that peaceful trip’. Today, despite the fares being high, almost double that of auto fares [I am talking about the official rates], their behaviour [a.k.a courteous service] leaves much to be desired


    Warm Regards / Ganesh Srinivasan

  14. Perarasu (unregistered) on October 6th, 2007 @ 6:32 pm

    In many cases, it is not even the question of paying the extra money. It is the way the passenger is treated. I cannot recall all the bitter memories I have had with the auto rickshaw drivers.

    As someone pointed out, it is not only the passengers from out of state that are affected, it is also people from within the state that have to go through this horror leave alone the locals who bear the brunt on a daily basis.

    Though, I cannot think of a way to resolve this problem.

  15. tamizhan (unregistered) on October 8th, 2007 @ 4:25 am


    If all you wanted was to ‘urge all of us’, you would have never said ‘they should start working on their weaknesses’ in your first post.

    You seem to be someone who loves a kid, but wont change its nappy. Remember, if you can take a bit of crap every now and then, you wont get shitloads of them later.

  16. ram (unregistered) on October 8th, 2007 @ 6:41 am

    Chennai stinks the whole place is rotten the IT expressway is the only good thing in Chennai along with the Marina and Spencers. As far as the people go they are rude and stubborn as donkeys, high divorce rates, women here are the worst they are born to kill men. The marry and then within two months wanta a divorce and they are all BPO SS.

  17. Anjena (unregistered) on October 8th, 2007 @ 1:29 pm

    Hi Ram,
    Just wondering how many times you were married and divorced that you seem so stricken by the high divorce rates?? Just get the **** out dude if you don’t like it..

  18. S.S.Mani (unregistered) on October 8th, 2007 @ 4:12 pm

    On and off, I have been living in Chennai from 1980, and now from 1991, continuously. I don’t know how Chennaites were before 1967. But one thing I surely understand is, they know what it it is to oppose either of the two DMKs! Others do not matter(as on date!?) I have voted for DMK, ADMK, BJP, Cong etc as I am not affliated to any party. The metro of Chennai as a fort of DMK/ADMK conveys a different meaning, than other metros may convey politically. Whatever happenend to the few students of IIT who contested the election last time? Will they appear again the next time? Do they think that they can win the confidence of people (not votes) by doing so? Many of us do not vote for other outfits, because we feel it will be a waste, but at the same time by boycotting an election we become unpatriotic!.

  19. Cheated Chintu (unregistered) on October 8th, 2007 @ 5:36 pm

    Just yesterday night I got ripped in Mumbai by a Taxi driver and a tout, outside the Airport. They tore off my 500 rupee note and two 100 rupee notes. After haggling I had to escape out of the taxi, luckily had taxi waiting behind. Escaping alive was relief enough. I think Chennai Auto drivers haven’t started ripping currency notes yet.

  20. ram (unregistered) on October 9th, 2007 @ 6:56 am

    Ha ha what a cry baby who are you to tell me anything Anjena Chennai sucks and that a fact
    you have to live with. Chennai is not respected
    by anyone in India so just stop defending it you BPO SS. Are you a feminist Chennaite woman? You can get f****.

  21. Sundeep (unregistered) on October 9th, 2007 @ 9:32 pm

    As author of this specified, it is the newcomers who are vulnerable and being exploited and there is no reason for locals to be blamed for their apathy. I am sure it is hard known fact now that people in Chennai got used to their way of life, negotiating with auto drivers, more commonly, than rest of the country.

    This has to change as Chennai becomes more cosmopolitan and to make the city more inviting.

  22. gowtham (unregistered) on October 9th, 2007 @ 10:59 pm

    Well Nanthu i am been to all the cities u have mentioned….they are all the same corruption…Well Chintu tells sucks…if you are not well adaptive even the best place on earth will suck….try to live with things around you and enjoy it ….Believe it or not its the most foreign invested place in 2006-07….things will change and will take time…if you are looking for development of chennai go to london or new york where the same taxi drivers wont even help u guiding you if you are lost. Taxi and auto drivers are rip off coz of another factor: police…So chennai is chennai and will never be your dream city…I enjoy it we enjoy it as does thousands…so any one against my home town can up theirs.

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