One of those days when I see flock of CNGs speeding past hundreds of people who are shouting to hail one of them, I start thinking, what do those drivers drive the CNG auto-rickshaws for? I thought it was their mean of earning livelihood. I thought they needed us to hire them for our transportation needs and that’s how they would earn money. But the way city CNG drivers behave these days make me feel like it’s the other way around.
Of course, it’s the cycle of society. If you don’t have your own car and bus or other mean of transportation is not available, your next best bet is a CNG auto-rickshaw. Taxi cabs are also available but if you’re on a budget then you would try to hail a CNG. Unfortunately for us though, we can’t rely on the system. We can’t rely on the fact that if there are CNGs around, we should be able to hire them for our destination and we should be able to get there on the right fare.
Instead, we have to first rely on the mercy of the CNG driver. It doesn’t matter where it is or where we want to go, if the CNG driver isn’t in the ‘mood’ of going, they’ll not go. They’ll either rest where they are resting, or they’ll just race in traffic pretending to not hear any of the people shouting at them.
Even if you get lucky and a CNG driver decides to take you to your destination, you will have a hard time fixing a fare. Meters have gone obsolete a long time ago. Even though on some CNGs the meter apparently works, good luck getting a CNG driver to agree to take you anywhere on meter. They will take you to your destination for a fixed fare, and you can be pretty much sure that the fare they ask is never even nearly fair.
In a moment like that, whether you go with that CNG depends on how much you’re willing to pay and what is your level urgency. If it’s urgent, you’ll likely not care much for money because you need to go to your destination as early as possible. You’ll get on that CNG. And if you’re on a budget or if you don’t want to pay the unfair amount, you’ll have to let him go and wait for another CNG driver’s mercy. Who knows how long’s that going to take!
Let’s just say you get lucky and you manage to get a driver have mercy on you and strike a balance between the high fare the driver asks and the fare you’re willing to pay. Next step, you’ll be asked to ‘lie’ in case a police officer stops you. The driver will tell you to tell the police officer — in case you’re asked — that you’re going on meter. What happens is you’re tricked into paying unacceptably more than the usual fare, and you’re also sort of forced to lie to the police in case they inquire.
Usually in situations like this, you’ll have no issue lying to the police because you’ll feel ‘grateful’ to the driver for letting you in as his passenger. I’ve seen this mentality in many people when they manage to get a CNG driver during rush hours or in the evening. Secondly, you wouldn’t want to tell the truth to the police because if you do, they’ll likely seize the driver and the CNG for the time being which means YOU ultimately get to go through the trouble of finding another CNG in wherever you are stopped. Even with the CNG driver’s faults, you will have to lie to the police in order to avoid further trouble for yourself.
That’s pretty much how city dwellers are with the CNG drivers. The question is, for how long? It was a bit of refreshing to see a major media outlet recently doing a detailed story on this matter but I’m not much hopeful that this will make the situation any good. Like most other cases, these things go way up the chain and no good is supposed to happen. So at the end of the day, we’ll again be waiting in traffic signals hoping that some CNG drivers will have mercy on us, and I will be looking at them thinking who indeed needs whom?
Have you experienced situations like this in Dhaka? What do you do when you can hail a CNG but the fare they ask is too high?