New political organisations that wish to make their mark in the upcoming civic polls are now seeking the support of autorickshaw drivers in the city.
Taking a cue from Arvind Kejriwal’s strategy, many political parties besides AAP, are banking on autorickshaw drivers to spread their footprint in the city. Besides the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the Swabhimani Paksha, led by MP Raju Shetti, has started its rickshaw wings. Surprisingly, both the cub parties are also eyeing the taxi aggregator platforms of Uber and Ola to reach out to the votebank.
Autorickshaw drivers had been one of the major supporters of the AAP in Delhi. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had promised action against the aggregator platform during his campaign trail. Although Kejriwal’s decision to ban the aggregator platform was overturned, the Delhi government has been talking of action especially against surge pricing practised by the platform.
Formed in January 2016, the AAP autorickshaw union in Pune has been taking up the fight against aggregator platforms in the city. Party leader Shrikant Acharya said the party has managed to enlist around 1,000 autorickshaw drivers with them. “As per the Motor Vehicle’s Act of 1988, it is the duty of the state to ensure the financial viability of the licence holders before allowing other players in the public transport platform. However, autorickshaw drivers are getting a raw deal after the introduction of the aggregator platforms and yet no action is being taken,” he said. Acharya said that rickshaw union meets every week to understand the drivers’ issues . “While the auto drivers will help the party in reaching out to people, the main focus behind the political association will be to prevent bigger businesses eating up smaller ones,” he said.
AAP plans to introduce an app for Pune auto drivers, which it has already done in Delhi. Acharya, talking of the rickshaw panchayat, said that while the panchayat is taking up social issues, the AAP rickshaw unit is fighting the battle on the technical side. “Before enrolling any rickshaw driver, we get them to pledge that they will not deny service to any customer. Also, we ask them to talk to their customers to understand their needs,” he said.
Another new entry is Swabhimani Rickshaw Sanghatana. Formed this year, according to Kamlesh Sassane of the Sanghatana, around 700 rickshaw drivers have joined the platform. “We are very cautious of whom we enroll. Only after verification, we taken them in,” he said. One of the major issues that the Sanghatan has taken up is the issue of aggregator service in Pune. “Such services are illegal. We will launch an agitation soon to oppose them,” he said.