Congress candidate for Mumbai North West, Sanjay Nirupam, said on Friday that he will try to get separate housing societies established for autorickshaw drivers in the suburbs. He was addressing a gathering of autorickshaw drivers outside Jogeshwari (East) railway station.
Junaid Ahmad Qureshi, who has been driving an autorickshaw in the area for over 30 years, listed out the problems faced by him and his colleagues. “We are Mumbai’s third lifeline but receive no facilities from the government. We are also workers and should be treated at par with government employees. Most of us live in slums and do not get any parking facilities unlike those who live in buildings. We have to pay Rs 1,200 for parking on the roads,” he said.
The 50-year-old added that autorickshaw drivers should be allotted free parking and also given a 10 per cent reservation in MHADA home lotteries.
Nirupam said it was an idea he could take forward. “We can take land from the government and build housing societies for all those drivers who have licenses and badges,” he said. Reiterating a promise made by Congress president Rahul Gandhi at a rally in Mumbai last month, Nirupam said that 500 sq ft homes would be built in these societies.
Addressing the issue of a chronic lack of parking spaces, Nirupam claimed that, if elected, he would ensure that every locality has an auto stand. “We cannot allot a separate ground for parking autos but what we can do is speak to the government to set aside grounds that are empty at night for parking autos. But it will be your responsibility to keep those grounds clean,” he said.
Other drivers also complained that the costs of purchasing vehicle and health insurance had trebled over the past four years.
Nirupam criticised the Marathi proficiency tests introduced by the state government, which new applicants for autorickshaw permits have to pass.
“I am not against the tests. You should have good enough knowledge of the language. But the exams have been made so tough, it is like appearing for Class X Board exams. If someone could pass this test, why would be become an autorickshaw driver?” he asked.