Kozhikode: The life and culture of autorickshaw drivers, known as the pride of the city for their honesty, has witnessed a sea change during the last few decades.
Anil Kumar M. of Eranhikkal, who makes a living by driving an auto for more than two decades, feels their existence is “in rough seas” now.
“In the late 90s when I started there were only a few autos, and the demand was much high,” he said.
“We earned much respect as well as an income to eke out a living. But on both counts at present, the community is weak.”
“The fuel prices were not fluctuating in those days ensuring a steady income, and many youngsters loved the job,” he added.
He feels that now everything went the opposite. Youngsters are keeping away as the job is not at all attractive and stable.
“Now the auto owners train migrants to drive. They’ll ruin the goodwill of the community in the long run,” he said.
The number of autos went up, as is people owning vehicles, hitting hard at their income.
On a rough estimate, more than 4000 autos are available now in the city, but few hire a ride.
There are days an auto driver ends the day’s work without a decent income. And there were days they spent most of the time in traffic jams.
Even then why many of the auto drivers stay on the job?
He feels there was a charisma earlier. An auto driver prides on being part of a strong team, and people respected him.
“The respect is still there, but we are unable to lead a respectable life due to hostile conditions,” he said.
“See now I am 54. Migrating to another job is tough. And moreover, I still enjoy this job.”