Monday, January 13, 2014

January 13, 2014

Some public service activism for a change.

Considering the recent (failing) drive by the government to rein in the Chennai auto drivers and the fact that I've been personally on the receiving end of the fleecing from the scumbags on innumerable occasions, I've been thinking long and hard about the most effective way to solve the problem: something that doesn't rely on either government fiat/initiatives or a law-and-order approach (the first is easily defeated by the time-tested perversion of the Gandhian way of protests, road-blocks, general hooliganism and court stays; the second by the level of corruption in the system in the form of hidden ownership, false or non-existent documentation abetted by the bureaucracy, and so on).

One of the first solutions that came to mind was a somewhat frivolous one: a Tumblr page called 'Do an Auto Today', where participants anonymously post reports of their surreptitious actions on an auto whose driver fleeced them that day -- actions that, shall we say, are mildly inimical to the vehicle in question (a strategically applied razor blade to the vinyl seat cushion suggests itself). But this is illegal and immoral, and this blog does not condone such activities in any manner or form (I love you, Internet Thought Police, and consider your service yeoman. Please don't hurt me), so it's out of the question.

The solution I'm going to propose is however similar, and is called 'Boycott All Autos Day'.  It's conceptually quite simple: everybody agrees not to use autos on a designated/pre-arranged day. Yeah, I know, getting everybody to coordinate their actions is quite difficult, in the absence of a common messaging platform. Maybe this will become practical someday in the future and somebody will invent a wireless phone that's small enough to fit in our pockets and yet be as powerful as our mainframes, and somebody will figure out a way to connect all these phones/computers so that we can share our thoughts instantly on a single platform ('It's like a yearbook with the faces of all your friends, but the kicker is that the captions underneath the pictures keep changing based on their thoughts')...

Having beaten the straw horse to death, moving on to the details.
  1. If you use autos to commute to work, resolve to take the public transport or call a cab. The extra stress or money for one day is worth the long-term benefit.
  2. Ditto for traveling to the railway station or the airport.
  3. If it's a planned trip -- shopping, visiting friends or relatives, going to the mall -- postpone it to the next day.
  4. Unplanned trips like emergency visits to the hospital are exempt from this boycott.
  5. If you use autos for a part of your commute, use a share auto. Or better still, walk.
  6. If you feel bad because you will be hurting your friendly neighbourhood auto stand folks, please move to the side over there; our trained staff will be shortly with you to administer our in-house behaviour modification regimen that will wean you off the practice of being friendly with unethical and unsavory characters.
  7. Lather, rinse and repeat once every month for the next six months, or till all autos run on meters (whichever occurs earlier).
I think that about covers it. I'll update this list when I think of more scenarios and objections.

One objection is what if the tables are turned on us in the form of an auto strike? There are two answers to this:
  1. Thanks very much for the pre-season practice.
  2. To paraphrase the IRA's rejoinder to Maggie Thatcher, 'We can do this every month; heck, every week. Your wallets will allow you to do this only a few times'.
One can always dream.