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Chennai loves to hate its autos

Aug 21, 2006 08:33 AM IST India India

Chennai: In one of many such films, superstar Rajnikanth features Chennai's notorious yellow three-wheeler in a song from his film Badsha.

Tamil cinema has often relied on autos to symbolise the city. Another movie called Auto is now in the making featuring autorickshaws of Chennai.

"I guess it boils down to economics. There are a lakh and twenty thousand auto drivers in the city, extend that to the state. So when you make something on autos you have a ready audience who will speak about the film to the common man," says Co – Director of Auto Pushkar.

The Filmworld glorifies the autos, but in the real world the autorickshaw has many sides to it.

First of all they are known for fleecing you when you get in, and then for rash driving and being a menace on the roads.

But despite all that, the autorickshaw is an integral part to the character of Chennai.

Out of estimated 80,000 autos in Chennai, only around 50,000 have permits

Today an estimated 80,000 autos ferry close to ten lakh people everyday. Out of these autos only around 50,000 have permits, the rest are illegal.

The numbers keep increasing because it's an easy source of livelihood to thousands of migrants without a job. They just rent an auto and join the yellow army.

But the lack of regulation on who gets to drive an auto makes them dangerous on the roads.

"Over 40 per cent of the Auto's are rented. Find an automan who has a family and won a auto, his is clearly different from an automan who does not have a stake, who is renting an auto and who is young and single," says Autokaran Editor Narayanan.

Ravi Gunaseelan pays income tax every year and has written a book on autos
Narayanan has a valid point. A journey into the world of the auto could make one sit behind someone like Ravi Gunaseelan, who pays income tax every year and has written a book on autos, and claims to have introduced the share auto concept.

You could also be riding behind a Post Graduate like Sekar or even women like Chamundeswari who's taken to auto driving.

"Auto Drivers are like free birds, you have no bosses and no restriction and it's a feeling of freedom that's why I became an Auto driver," says auto driver Ravi Gunaseelan.

Today even as Chennai loves to hate them, but the fact is the auto is to Chennai perhaps what politicians are to India, a necessity with a bitter side.