August 29, 2010

Meter Jam: Hall of fame


Last week, I told the story of the dude from meter jam and the 40-odd thousand enthusiastic people who support the movement. I explained how Meter Jam is nothing but a bunch of self-important, pseudo self-righteous, completely out-of-touch assholes getting together to protest against something because their friends think it is cool and that makes them feel good! A few of you did not like my stance and this article is dedicated for you.

Why Meter Jam such a dumb idea?

I found the whole concept of Meter Jam ridiculously asinine because I know a little about how the system works
  • RTA offices in Mumbai and Pune have stopped giving new permits for autos way back in 1998! A black market for old permits flourished overnight. Recently, the RTA has allowed transfer of permits but an official transfer of permit costs Rs 25000 (exclusive of pulling some strings and wetting some beaks)!
  • Even with transfer of permits now legal, the existing permit owners are reluctant to give away their permits; they prefer to rent them out on a monthly basis and the rents go up to a few thousand rupees a month.
  • Most auto drivers do not own autos. They rent it on a shift basis (usually in 8 or 12 hour shifts) and the auto rents again are in the range of a few thousand rupees.
  • They have to bribe the police on a regular basis! Auto drivers are usually stopped because the auto is not in a satisfactory condition (broken tail lamp, indicators not working, not having the required papers etc.) which is kind of out of control of the drivers because most of them do not own the auto they drive!
  • The permit rents, auto rents, police bribes are all black money transactions. The govt. does not take those into account when setting the fare. They just come up with a number like Rs 8 per kilometer and the driver has to bear all these hidden costs.
  • In Chennai and Bangalore, a lot of police constables own autos which are rented out without proper licences and these autos get automatic immunity by ownership! 
If morality represents an ideal world, then economics represents the actual world.
- Freakonomics
So every time an auto driver refuses to ferry for a short distance, it is because it does not make economic sense and not because he hates you. A more thorough argument on these lines here @

I am not saying all the auto drivers are really wonderful people forced to cheat people for survival. Some of them are jerks. May be in cities like Chennai and Hyderabad, a lot of auto drivers are jerks. But the important thing is, they are jerks and we're not protesting against jerks here!

Why are there so many people in this stupid thing?

Now back to Meter Jam, a website where forty thousand people feel sorry about themselves on facebook because their lives are greatly inconvenienced by a few semi-educated people with a driving license! The way I see it, not all the 40,000 people are in it for they honestly feel about the cause.

Meter Jammers can be roughly divided into three groups.

1. Gormless, self important and offensively snobbish dudes and babes who have no idea about the very system they are protesting against.

2. A significant number of girls are in because it is cool to protest against something these days.

3. Horny Indian Males who signed up because there are girls are in it. HIMs spend most of their time silently hoping that taking the city bus will improve their chances of getting laid! They also try to be proactive in the discussion forums to establish themselves as the alpha-male.

The Meter Jam Hall of Fame

In the reply to "What next for Meter Jam":

Jishna on "How to deal with errant auto drivers":

In the reply to "What next for Meter Jam":

Random comments on random comments on the wall:

Amul uses the opportunity to come up with a witty cartoon :)


  1. I appreciate the contents emormously, although I wish you were less abrasive to the snobs, girls, HIMs et al. The problem they are supposedly addressing is well beyond their mortal prowess. Its the Mother Nature which has concoted the average desi genes and it is incorrigible. And, yes, I'm an unwilling part of it. Before you mistake me, I am not part of the meter jam, nor am I an auto driver.

  2. @uspandey: I am not usually that abrasive, the fact that they say/do all these in the name of social activism just makes me feel that they deserve at least this...

    I'll agree that these sort of things are above their intellect and they should stick to watching Akshay Kumar films and Karan Johar talk shows :)

  3. i have discussed this topic with my friends 3 years back. My thoughts mirror yours, but dont have a talent/writing skills/time/blog to put it down. You should have done an estimate of a rickshaw walla's average income, living conditions (i remember we had done this and the number was pretty shocking).
    good article as always. :)

  4. Thanks... I did a rough analysis myself but thought that the math would distract attention from the original point I am trying to make

  5. Well meter jam was a ridiculous idea. I was not in Bangalore when this happened, but I kept of track of it. Back in my home town, the youth has better things to do (make a living, cope up with bandhs due to naxalism, find daily bread when prices beat tsunami). As I have advocated before, these morons purchase Levis t-shirts for thousands of rupees and never ask for discounts. The same moron fights for 2 rupees with a poor sabziwala, or an auto driver! On one side, this moron is adding to to the one-hundredth part of the perfume a corporate guy seated in an AC room in the US uses, but he is too ashamed to add value to the education of the child of this poor autowala, or for that context- chaiwala or sabziwala!

    One of these guys mentions, that these auto drivers should become farmers. Has he even seen a real farm outside farmville, a game strictly for youngistanis below an IQ of 20!

    Great to know read this post of yours, Jayanth! Keep up the good work!!

  6. Thanks Sourav!

    I will agree that the average age of Mater Jammers and their average IQ would be approximately the same!

    This is the problem that the resourceful and the prosperous are completely disconnected from the realilty and now they stylishly have two names "Bharat" and "India" and pretend that they care and want to make a change for very superficial reasons.

  7. U just showed the intelligence levels of some non-IITians to the world...

  8. great work mate! keep blogging. I share very similar frustrations...

  9. great work mate! I share very similar frustrations. Keep blogging...! Cheers

  10. Haha this is great.
    I personally enjoy arguing with Dilli autowallahs very much and therefore I am completely against this meter jam thingy getting any bigger. What would my beloved city be without autowallahs all chickened down and afraid to even attempt to milk Rs 10 more out of me. I feel this meter jam thingy threatens my right to be a bitch sometimes.

  11. Yes Trisha, you go be a bitch :p

  12. U shud understand that people's frustration is not without reason, and it is not just about 10Rs or 20 Rs. These autowallahs swindle passengers of 100's of rupees, more than the cost of your subway sandwich. Looks like you don't travel alone that often. If you had such experiences u wouldn't come up with articles like this. I suggest you travel by auto in a place like Ahmedabad all alone.

  13. Like I said, I have had bad experiences personally and there are cheats and jerks among the auto drivers but my point was "Is it reason enough to have so much hate and artificial enthusiasm to fight them?" People get ripped off by TTEs and Traffic police all the time, try to start a similar campaign against the traffic police and lets see how it goes around. The problem I have with the protest is not the issue per se but the people protesting and the superficial reasons they protest for and the insensitivity with which they speak about the issue!

  14. who cares what the level of intellect is? It did the job pretty well. In either case its pretty democratic to voice your opinion/protest. There are no iq tests outside polling booths right? You think you are wronged in some way you have every right to voice your opinion democratically. There are the usual 'feel good about myself' and idiots chasing the girls but thats just how it is. At the end of the day it worked. It was very new age, online, social media integrated along with coverage all over and personally i could not be prouder. It get the attention of the higher ups and i hope it is a sign of things to come. You should get off your high horse and applaud, the people who organized it gave a very pissed off urban middle class a unified voice.

  15. Like I have stressed in my previous comments, I do not have a problem with the issue per se but the attitude of the people and the superficial reasons for which they protest and the insensitivity with which they speak about the issue!

    Middle class, fairly well to do people pretending to be victims of someone who is much worse off comes out as disgusting doesn't it?

  16. Not really. It actually DID get the message through. The union leaders DID hear it and the higher ups did hear it. Besides holding the ricks up at gunpoint you really cant do much more. No it IS the problem not a symptom. If riding rickshaws is not working out for them then they wouldn't get into it at all, but here is a refusal to go one way and not the other. They have had countless protests about price hikes, CNG is much cheaper, they strike whenever the feel like it, the meters ARE tampered (spoken to them, you can trust me on this) and they try to take you for a ride. Im going to assume your argument for all this is 'its a symptom not a cause' which is to say 'anyone can act like a jerk when they have bad things going for them. Even if they are providing a critical public sector function' which is pretty daft.

    I am not as presumptuous as you in judging how much difference it (meter jam) made but i do remember reading that someone higher up heard it and thats what I am pointing out. Remember my yardstick for success is how well we galvanized not what we accomplished.

  17. So the union leaders and the higher ups lent you an ear because of Meter Jam... so what? Do you actually believe that the the union leaders and the higher ups did not know that meters are tampered with? I am sure they know and I am also sure that they know that we know. So all Meter Jam achieved was arrange a meeting with a bunch of people and made them acknowledge something that was public knowledge to start with in the first place!

    Now to your "yardstick for success is how well we galvanized not what we accomplished"... first of all, very low standards to start a "revolution" don't you think?...

    Secondly, getting 40,000 people to like a facebook page is no big deal. All you have to do is make a bunch of out-of-touch-with-reality-people feel like victims and make them feel sorry for themselves! The FB page "Thank you Pakistan for taking Sania Mirza, please take Rakhi Swant too" alone has more than 200,000 fans!

  18. Nice article there, Let's see, how does Blogger succeed in life. Well, the best formula remains the same. Take a hot topic, be a harsh critic, post it on the forum to gain free publicity. Such a shitty standard for success. Guess u needed 40000 people to read it to get some attention.


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