Though a number of autos and taxis stayed off the roads on day two of an indefinite strike against the Delhi government’s “silence” on reining in cab aggregators such as Ola and Uber, the participation in the protest seemed visibly weak Wednesday.
Transport Minister Satyendar Jain said 17 of the 25 unions had called off the strike following a meeting with him, even as Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal accused Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung of “supporting the BJP” to “cripple” Delhi.
The CM and Jain also accused Delhi Police of not acting against “BJP goons” who allegedly stopped autos and other passenger vehicles from plying. “BJP goons stopping autos and taxis from plying. BJP wants to cripple del. Active support frm LG n Del police,” tweeted the CM. Jain tweeted, “Goons stopped autos and other passenger vehicles with BJP support. Why no action by Delhi Police.”
The unions on strike rejected Jain’s statement that 17 unions had called off their protest. Shyam Sunder, a member of the All Delhi Tempo Truck Owners Union, said, “Jain had called his party’s supporters to the meeting. These unions were not on strike in the first place, so, how can they call off the strike? The strike is very much on.”
Rajender Soni, general secretary of Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, who staged a hunger strike with leaders of other unions outside Kejrwial’s residence Wednesday, demanding the CM take action against the App-based cab services, said, “Twenty-five union leaders who called the strike are sitting on hunger strike here with us. How is Jain claiming they have called off the strike? They are not with us. They are Jain’s people.”
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Kishan Verma, president of All Delhi Auto-Taxi Transport Congress Union, claimed the unions themselves had relaxed the strike. “We directed autorickshaw drivers to provide services to those in dire need, and excused the ones who are too poor to suffer this loss of income,” he said.
Some autorickshaw drivers complained of having faced strong-arm tactics for not being on strike. “A man slapped me when I was driving near Shastri Park,” said Dhirendra Singh.
Vinod Singh, another autorickshaw driver who disobeyed the strike call, said, “It’s 85,000 autowallahs against the 1 crore public, which gets cheaper cabs through Ola and Uber. It is clear who the government is going to support. If it does anything, it loses votes. Therefore, I continue to take commuters.”
Amid the standoff, commuters seemed relieved that more autos were plying than on Tuesday. “The strike left me stranded yesterday. Thankfully, today there are a few autos around,” said Divya Garg, an advocate.