Lakhs of commuters found themselves walking a few kilometres or boarding jam-packed buses with almost 80 per cent of the citys autorickshaws staying off the roads on Monday in response to a call by the Sharad Rao-led union. The strike was in protest against what they called an inadequate interim fare hike and the mandatory installation of electronic meters.
A crucial para-transit system in the suburbs,around one lakh autos are registered in Mumbai of which between 80,000 and 85,000 ply daily. On Monday,less than 15,000 autos ferried commuters.
The Mumbai Autorickshawmens Union claimed that 1,03,000 auto drivers struck work. While BEST undertaking pressed in additional buses,they ran packed as office-goers and students,including many taking final exams,jostled to get a ride to railway stations.
Reema Goel,a Kalanagar resident,said: I had a meeting at my Link Road office in the morning but I got late,thanks to the strike. Even the frequency of buses is disappointing,which leaves them so crowded that it is not possible for me to get in. Besides,some of the local rickshawmen took advantage of the strike and demanded extra fare.
The Rao-led union had called for a strike in protest against the Re 1-fare hike announced by Regional Transport Authority last week. While the union called the hike inadequate,Rao said it did not take into account autos still running on petrol and only catered to CNG-run ones.
Shashank Rao,assistant general secretary of the union and the veteran union leaders son,said the protest was 97 per cent successful. We completed the protest despite the fact that it was not supported by the Shiv Sena and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena. This shows they have no control over the rickshawmen. We have conveyed our demands to the Transport Commissioner and plan to take up the matter with the CM and Deputy CM once the budget session of Assembly ends.
Automen are also reluctant to switch over to electronic meters,citing lack of infrastructure.
The Autorickshaw Malak-Chalak Sanghatana Sanyukta Kriti Samiti headed by Rao rejected the hike announced based on recommendations of the one-man committee of former bureaucrat PMA Hakim. Now,the union has also demanded the inclusion of its members in the panel,removal of Hakim and a Rs 5-hike in the minimum fare.
Across the state,15 lakh autos stayed off the roads,Rao said.