Meter Jam: Second time lucky?

After an unsuccessful first attempt, Bengaluru is gearing up for another auto rickshaw boycott, hoping to make autowallahs sit up and take notice this time.

Two months after their first auto boycott on August 12, Meter Jam – an initiative against menacing auto drivers – is organizing another boycott on October 12. In addition to Bangalore, the boycott will be held in Mumbai, Chennai and Delhi as well.

Jammers in the city are hoping that the initiative will be successful, unlike the last boycott, during which autos were plying smoothly and many drivers did not even come to know about the initiative. "Last time the focus was on Mumbai, and Meter Jam was only starting to get popular in Bangalore. This time, around 40,000 online followers of Meter Jam have confirmed the boycotting in the four cities, and at least 6000 of them – mostly techies and students – are from Bangalore," says Sudeep Kamal, a core member of the Bangalore team.

The organizers have pulled out all the stops to ensure that the public is informed – the event has been publicized through media reports and radio channels, in addition to mails circulated among thousands of people. They have also tied up with mobile-based platform ZipDial to send out SMS to nearly two lakh people informing them of the event. The BMTC (Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation) has agreed to have more buses ply on the road on Tuesday as per our request, Sudeep said. Around 300 people in the Meter Jam community in Bombay and Bangalore have shared their contact numbers in the community’s Facebook page to help the public through car pooling as well.

Meter Jam will organize their second auto boycott in Bangalore on October 12. Pic credit:

The concerns of the Meter Jam community are faulty auto meters, overcharging, refusing to go to destinations, abuse, and strikes as decided by the auto unions. They hope that the boycott movement will raise awareness, encourage alternate transport modes and get more support from authorities to solve auto problems. The community was first formed in Mumbai by three advertising professionals in July and gradually gained support in Bangalore.

Meter Jam’s website gives information on car pooling and forums for reporting complaints against auto drivers and enables download of mobile applications for calculating auto fares. The group, which has around 25 core members in the city, plans to speak to the transport department and traffic police department for support. "We need better connectivity by BMTC buses, more pre-paid auto counters and intervention by traffic police to check on drivers abusing passengers," says Sudeep.

The boycott is expected to be successful in IT campuses as many techies are already aware of the initiative through social media. Companies like Aditya Birla, Accenture etc are supporting the event by spreading awareness about the drive through their corporate social responsibility departments. Boycott is expected to be more effective in areas like MG road, Brigade road and Commercial Street as people who move around here are likely to be more aware, says Sudeep.

Manjunath, President of Auto and Taxi Drivers Union, believes that the boycott may not be effective. "Last time it did not create any effect at all. Drivers should be honest and well-behaved towards customers and we do speak to them about this," he says.

Meanwhile, Meter Jam already has plans for another boycott after 1-2 months.


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