New Delhi: As the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government completes its first year in power in Delhi, the original aam aadmi and a strong support base of the party — the Delhi autowallah — does not have much to cheer about.
Autowallahs are vocal about the ‘apathy and unkept promises’ of the AAP government towards them. Visibly indignant, they have started losing hope in Delhi chief minister and convener of AAP, Arvind Kejriwal, who had climbed the popularity charts riding on their shoulders.
“Na kuchh badla hai aur na hi kuchh badlega; kyunki Kejriwalji ke paas Dilli aur am aadmi ke alawaa baaki duniadaari ke liye samay hai (Nothing has changed and nothing will change in the future; because except for Delhi and its common man, Kejriwal has time for all other issues). We supported him blindly even when he quit after 49 days, because he assured us that whatever he had promised would be fulfilled in the second term. But, nothing happened,” lamented Naresh Yadav, originally from Samastipur in Bihar, and a resident of Burari in Delhi
Before the Delhi Assembly election in November 2013, the support from this section for the AAP was huge. Around 70 percent of the capital's autorickshaw owners had joined the party’s campaign on their own. They carried its posters on their vehicles. According to a survey, around 90 percent of around 80,000 autowallahs in Delhi had supported Kejriwal and his party.
When Kejriwal quit the government after 49 days, they were disappointed and at one point of time had decided not to support his party. However in 2014, Kejriwal succeeded in wooing them by making several promises.
Yadav is not the only autowallah in Delhi who feels that he has been taken for a ride by the AAP government. Hari Singh from Gorakhpur, who works out of the Paharganj area is less critical, but shares a similar view that “nothing will change for the autowallahs in Delhi”.
“For the past three months, I’ve been running from pillar-to-post to get the signature of the officer concerned — after which I’ll be eligible to get a new autorickshaw. Due to the AAP government, the role of touts in vehicle registration department has been minimised. Now you can deal directly with the officials unlike in the past. Earlier, if you operated through a tout, your job would be done within three days. Now it takes more than three months and you don’t know when it’ll be completed. Isn’t that also corruption?” he asked.
The Congress government had earlier introduced the draconian section 66/192A under which the driver was slapped with a challan and the autorickshaw was taken into police custody for frivolous reasons such as parking by the roadside to pick up a passenger or for not keeping all the documents in place. The fine was heavy — in the range of Rs 5,000 to Rs 10,000.
“Whatever we earned in a month would be lost in one go. It was only after Arvind Kejriwal became chief minister and promised that no auto driver would face police harassment, did that stop. Now, it’s not that frequent. No traffic cop dares to issue challans to us illegally — unlike in the past. But other promises made to us have remain unfulfilled,” remarked Santosh Kumar, an auto driver from Bihar who plies in South-East Delhi.
AAP had promised that once they came to power, they would construct nearly 4,000 autorickshaw stands, issue permits to Delhi autorickshaw drivers to ply in the National Capital Region, facilitate easy bank loans to buy autos, increase the number of autorickshaws on roads to generate employment etc.
However, autorickshaw stands are yet to constructed, getting a loan to buy an auto continues to be as difficult as in the past and red-tapism at the registration department continues.
“Kejriwal made big promises but once he came to power, he forgot about them. He didn’t take any step to improve the condition of autorickshaw drivers and service to passengers,” remarked Rakesh Agarwal, secretary, Nyaya Bhoomi, an NGO working for the cause of autowallahs.
Besides, the autowallahs aren’t happy with their own local MLAs.
“They are simply not bothered. I wrote about the civic problems to the deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia, Transport Minister Gopal Rai and apprised our local MLA of the matter. But none responded and the local MLA doesn’t have time for us now. We worked day and night for him during the election, but even today our drinking water problems continue,” said Omprakash, an auto-rickshaw driver from Burari.