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Kochi’s auto drivers’ body wins national award for innovation in urban transport during COVID-19

CPPR Chairman Dr D Dhanuraj comments in a news report published in The New Indian Express. He says “”As part of ensuring last-mile connectivity for major transport segments, a clear-cut policy should be formulated by KMTA. Otherwise, such initiatives could not be sustained in the long-run,”

Ernakulam Jilla Autorickshaw Drivers’ Co-operative Society (EJADCS), a collective of members from six trade unions and claimed to be a first-of-its-kind in Asia, has won the prestigious award for ‘Innovation in urban transport during COVID-19’ under the public transport segment at the Urban Mobility India (UMI) conference – 2020.

EJADCS won the award, instituted by the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, beating formidable rivals including Kochi Metro Rail’s last-mile services, Bengaluru and Chennai metro’s e-mobility ventures, officials said. The society garnered the attention of the jury for providing relentless support for the works during the testing times of Covid-19, they said.

The contest also saw the participation of road transport corporations of all states and union territories, metro rails, e-mobility ventures. The award will be formally announced online on Monday. Along with adhering to safety measures, the society has provided QR code in every member autos for contactless transactions.  

“We have partnered in a few urban e-mobility projects by providing low-cost, pollution-free travel to the public. Besides, we supported the families of struggling auto drivers during pandemic times. The earnings of drivers have gone down from Rs 1000 in the pre-Covid period below Rs 300 during Covid. Using the CSR fund of various PSUs, we have provided an essentials kit for every driver. Besides, we have provided transparent physical separators for safety cabin in 320 autos. Our member drivers have food packets prepared at their homes and water for the passengers who struggled to find hotels during the lockdown. The award committees have considered all these factors while choosing us for the award,” said Simon Edappally, director board member, EJADCS.

D Dhanuraj, chairman, CPPR, a Kochi-based think-tank, said policy level interventions by Kochi Metropolitan Transport Authority (KMTA), was needed to take the initiative to the next level. “As part of ensuring last-mile connectivity for major transport segments, a clear-cut policy should be formulated by KMTA. Otherwise, such initiatives could not be sustained in the long-run,” he said.

EJADCS is now awaiting the launch of AuSa, an autorickshaw-ride-booking app, to provide smooth and safe access to the customers. The Society has also introduced ‘PetroCard’ in association with public oil companies to give away a reward for the drivers on each time they fill fuel on their vehicles.

“We have launched the logo of our Uber-model mobile app and it will be fully functional within a month. Playing as a feeder service to the first level transport like metro and buses, the app will assist passengers across Kochi. It will also help them to rent out an auto for an entire day. We have also collaborated with supermarkets and shopping malls to safely provide essentials to the doorsteps of customers through our autos. We are also providing financial support to the members to buy CNG-fuelled and electric autos,” said Simon.  

EJADCS’s partnership with the Kochi Corporation to run 100 e-autos which also helped the society to win the coveted award. The project introduced as part corporation’s Integrated Sustainable Urban Transport Systems for Smart Cities (SMART-SUT) scheme was supported by GIZ (the German Agency for International Cooperation).  “Irrespective of political affiliation, the society is standing for the welfare of the emp0loyees,” he said.

Around 5,000 autos are members of the society and aim to register 27,000 drivers of Ernakulam within the next year. 

This news report was published in The New Indian Express on 8 November 2020. Click here to read

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