May 3, 2009 11:11:45 pm
Hunger-strike on Monday: operators
The indefinite strike by autorickshaw operators in the city and Pimpri-Chinchwad against a decrease in fares entered the second day on Saturday,with he operators refusing to budge from their demands. The auto-rickshaw union members have also announced a daylong hunger-strike on Monday before the council hall to drive home their point.
The Regional Transport Authority (RTA) had decreased fares by Re 1 per km on Thursday.
The RTA also wants all the autos in Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad to be converted to LPG/CNG from May 1 to comply with pollution norms in the city.
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The decision saw unions going on a flash strike on Friday,bringing to a stop,the nearly 45,000 auto-rickshaws that ply in the city and around 5,000 in Pimpri-Chinchwad area. On Saturday,union representatives and RTA members met Divisional Commissioner Dilip Band and submitted their demands that included rolling back fares to earlier rates. They demanded subsidy for fitting high-priced CNG/LPG kits. The president of Rickshaw Panchayat,Dr Baba Adhav,said unless the demands are met they would continue with their strike. We want the RTA to reconsider their decisions, he told The Indian Express. Earlier,he also addressed a large number of auto-rickshaw drivers at the Council Hall.
The Divisional Commissioner who heard the demands later told The Indian Express that it was a state government decision and he could not take any independent decision. We have had initial talks with them. We will try and help them while fitting the kits. But I can do nothing about the fares as it was already decided two months back, he said. He also said that they would be extending the natural gas pipeline from CME to other parts of the city and increasing the number of outlets so that there is enough supply of CNG.
With a large number of commuters depending on this mode of transport,Band said that he had the PMPML press in more buses to address the situation. The total buses plying in the areas were 1,300 on Saturday. I have requested the DRM,Railways,to allow buses to have closer pick-up and drop points to avoid inconvenience to commuters, he said.
Asked about the action plan to address the hunger-strike on Monday,he said they will adopt a wait-and-watch policy.
Auto union representatives said the fare revision was sudden and their should have been informed about it. A union leader,Bapu Bhave,added that an LPG kits costs nearly Rs 14,500 and CNG kits would cost nearly Rs 25,000. Where will an auto-rickshaw driver get this kind of money from? The government has to provide some subsidy, said Bhave.
Meanwhile,RTA member Baba Shinde said he had already called a meeting of manufacturers of LPG/CNG as well as bankers for financers on Monday. The auto drivers are not hesitating to change into LPG/CNG but some subsidy has to be provided and they should get loans from banks, said Shinde.
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