Last year in the NYT's Freakonomics section, a lively debate was going on about why there is such a difference in behavior between autorickshaw drivers in Delhi and Mumbai. You know the gen - Delhi rips you off all the time, Mumbai sticks (generally) to the meter.

Some of the answers were interesting, the most interesting being that it's all about competition. Delhi has less competition for public transport, Mumbai has much more. So it makes sense not to cut each other or other forms of transport out by quoting prices too low or too high respectively. So, everyone just goes according to the meter.

Not always in our experience. And remember the complaints about doctored meters, crazy driving, causing accidents that leave the rickshaws themselves blithe and unscathed, or the way they move in like piranhas when there is an emergency?

How many autorickshaws are there in Mumbai? God knows because licensing is a murky area and every party has its own union owing it allegiance. But in May 2008, when taxis and autorickshaws went on strike in protest against a government plan to phase out taxis more than 25 years old, Mr Sharad Rao, president of one joint union, said 55,000 taxis and 1,60,000 rickshaws would be striking.

That's a whole lot of autorickshaws and drivers crammed into the suburbs. Unlike in Delhi, they are not allowed to ply downtown.


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