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RTA delinks CNG conversion,fare

Three months after the state government asked Mumbai,Thane and Pune RTAs to reduce autorickshaw fares in tandem with the petrol price cut,Pune is still grappling with the problem.

Written by Ranjani Raghavan | Pune |
May 5, 2009 10:11:48 pm

No gain from 2-month delay to enforce fare cut

Three months after the state government asked Mumbai,Thane and Pune RTAs to reduce autorickshaw fares in tandem with the petrol price cut,Pune is still grappling with the problem.

The belated effort to get auto drivers to follow their counterparts in Mumbai and Thane has resulted in a standoff that entered the fourth day,with autorickshaw union leaders going on a hungerstrike today.

“Across the state,the government took a decision to reduce fares,how can Pune be an exception?” said C S Sangithrao,principal secretary,transport,state government. He refused to comment on the Pune RTA decision not to enforce the state directive along with Mumbai and Thane in February. At the time,the Pune RTA withheld the decision to revise fares and asked all autorickshaw drivers to convert their vehicles to CNG. The delay led nowhere as,by April,only around 500 of the over 45,000 autorickshaws had converted to CNG.

In a turnaround on Monday,the RTA de-linked the issue of revising the auto fares and conversion to CNG. “They are separate issues,” Dilip Band,divisional commissioner and chairperson of the RTA said on Monday.

On why CNG had been linked with fare revision in March,Band said,“It was not a mistake. Had we reduced fares immediately,the Class X and XII students would have been greatly inconvenienced,” he said. Around three lakh students had appeared for board exams this year. “Now,the government is asking me why the lowered rates have not been enforced,” Band said.

He said the RTA move to link the rate revision with CNG was a step towards reducing pollution. “We thought auto drivers could use the extra money to purchase CNG retrofit kits. The auto unions did not react positively to our CNG idea. On May 1,I again asked the auto drivers to convert to CNG in three months and in return we were to consider taking the auto fares to Rs 10 again. But they refused. Now this offer is no longer binding on me,” he said.

Unions are furious. “Why do you think they waited for two months? It was an election ploy to reduce rates on April 30,immediately after Mumbai polls,” Baba Adhav,president of Rickshaw Panchayat,who is leading the strike for city auto drivers,said. A weak argument,point out sceptics,saying auto users outnumbered the auto drivers manifold.

A fine continues to be levied on auto drivers for not converting to CNG. “Rs 50 per day is being charged from May 1 from autos that have not converted to CNG,” Baba Shinde,RTA member said. “We will continue the agitation. Each day,we lose over Rs 50 when prices of every commodity continue to rise,” said Adhav.

Over the day,RTA tried to make alternative arrangements. PMPML said it has pressed into service 1,257 buses. It has cancelled leave and weekly offs of all PMPML officers as well as drivers and conductors. All buses are on the roads. PMPML has increased services on most routes.

The RTA has decided to allow PMPML buses to enter Pune and Shivaji Nagar railway station premises. Meanwhile,there was heavy demand for private taxis today. “We got over 2,000 inquiries,” said Jayant Desai,director of a private cab company.

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