The day-long transport strike against the steep rise in traffic fines caused severe hardship to thousands of people in Delhi-NCR Thursday as a large number of autos, cabs, and private buses remained off the roads. Among the worst-hit were people arriving at the railway stations, inter-state bus terminals and the airport. At many places, the strikers forcibly stopped the few autos and taxis that agreed to ferry commuters, charging fares much higher than usual.
The strike, called by the United Front of Transport Associations (UFTA) that comprises of around 41 transport Associations, remain in force between 6 am and 10 PM. UFTA convenor Rajender Kapoor said the strike was a major success and should serve as a wake-up call for the governments at the state and the Centre.
“A few people tried to create disruptions, but such incidents were very few and we do not endorse such behaviour. We will try to engage in a dialogue with the governments again and try to persuade them. If they don’t relent, we plan to rope in transport associations of other states and go for bigger protests. It is not just about higher fines. Our grievances are more against the kind of corruption traffic police personnel indulge in. The government must make it mandatory for enforcement staff to wear microphones and body cameras to record the entire process of issuing challans for violations,” Kapoor said.
At New Delhi Railway Station, unable to find any mode to travel, an elderly couple, who arrived from Pune around 12 pm, broke down. A little distance away, Shivraj N and his family, who came from Bengaluru via Shatabdi Express, waited for over two hours before one taxi driver agreed to ferry them to their hotel in Daryaganj.
At the Anand Vihar, which has a inter-state bus terminal and a railway junction, unruly scenes were witnessed and passengers were forced to deboard from cabs they had managed to book via aggregators. Similar incidents were reported from the Nizamuddin station.
At the Indira Gandhi International Airport, passengers who arrived had to suffer surge pricing and long delays. The kaali peeli cabs did not ply. The protesting unions raised slogans against the amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act in many places.
The Delhi Police said that it received around 249 PCR calls from harried commuters, many of whom complained that the vehicles they were travelling in were stopped.
“To regulate the situation, we deployed a force of 10 companies including personnel from the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) at districts including outer north, southeast, northeast, east and Shahdara. No cases of violence were reported during the strike and legal action will be taken against the offenders,” Anil Mittal, Delhi police additional PRO, said.
The situation was worse in certain parts of Noida and Ghaziabad. Arpita Saha, a tattoo artist, said auto drivers demanded a fare of Rs 150 for a commute between Noida’s sector 50 and sector 18, for which she usually pays Rs 50. “Eventually I walked down to the sector 34 metro station,” she said.
As announced earlier, many private schools remained closed as private buses also joined the strike. Schools that depend on rented buses from the DTC could function normally.