Monday morning blues for Mumbai as rickshaws go on strike
Around 75,000 autorickshaw drivers stayed off the city's streets today seeking a hike in fares. State authorities claimed that alternative transport arrangements have been made to ease the woes of commuters.
Thousands of Mumbaikars racing to get to work on a Monday morning had to grapple with crowded buses and in some cases had to walk to the nearest suburban railway station as supporters of one of the city's biggest auto-rickshaw unions decided to stay off the roads demanding a fare hike.
The action by Sharad Rao's Mumbai Autorickshawmen's Union (MAU) came despite a Re 1 hike on minimum fare — from Rs 11 to Rs 12 — permitted by the Regional Transport Authority (RTA) last week.
There are a total of over 100,000 autorickshaws plying in Mumbai's eastern and western suburbs.
Commuters in and around Mumbai were the worst affected and many of them took to Twitter to describe their experiences.
"Can see few MNS flag bearing autos in Goregaon. Else only taxis," @viraaj_n tweeted.
Another resident @anniejones8 tweeted,"Mumbai is blazing.... And thanks to the #AutoStrike .. Have to walk in the sun."
However, not all commuters were affected by the strike with those driving to work from the suburbs enjoying emptier roads than usual.
"The day car drivers can drive without constantly braking," @psubatman tweeted.
The union, Mumbai Autorickshawmen's Union, which reportedly has the support of around 75,000 vehicle owners in Mumbai has called for a one-day strike across the state seeking a fare hike. Other unions have however opposed the strike and said they will instruct their supporters to ply their vehicles.
"We shall not be participating in the strike as the transport department from the state government has already approved Re 1 hike in the fare," said Haji Arafat Sheikh of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena-led Vahatuk Sena.
The Shiv-Sena led Rickshaw Chalak Malak Sena also opposed the strike. "We have asked our drivers to not be intimidated by the tactics of the Sharad Rao-led union," an officer-bearer said.
KK Tiwari, leader of the Swabhimaan Sanghatna, headed by Nitish Rane, son of Industry Minister Narayan Rane, said the strike was pointless as the fare had already been hiked from 20 April.
The autorickshaw drivers on strike are expected to conduct a protest rally at the transport commissioner's office later today.
"We will take out a morcha to the state transport commissioner's office in Bandra (East) at 2 pm on Monday to press our demands. We want the appointment of a new auto trade inquiry committee and a fare hike of Rs 5," Sharad Rao, who heads the Mumbai Autorickshawmen's Union, was quoted as saying in the Times of India.
Authorities have said that they would permit private buses to ferry people for today and the state's public bus services will be operate additional buses. Mumbaikars were also asked to carpool.
Police officials said that they are also prepared to handle any incidents of violence between the unions.
Meanwhile, the state government has threatened action against the auto rickshaw drivers who refuse to ply their vehicles today. A report in the Times of India said the city's transport authority will fine autorickshaw drivers on strike Rs 3,000 and suspend their licences for 45 days.
With inputs from IANS
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