If the Meru Cab Service management does not sort out its internal problems soon, its business is going to get hit badly as it will lose its regular customers.
On Wednesday, the tussle between the management and the drivers took an ugly turn with drivers getting attacked and commuters being forced out of the cabs at different spots in the city by unidentified men.
The Meru administration speculates that the attacks are a result of failed negotiations between the management and Swabhiman Sanghatna, an organisation led by Nitesh Rane that represents a section of the drivers.
Following the attacks, most Meru drivers pulled off the roads. It’s been just a week since the Meru drivers resumed services after a three-day strike.
Rajesh Puri, CEO of Meru Cabs, which runs Mumbai’s largest fleet cab service, said: “During the earlier strike, 58 of our vehicles were damaged resulting in Rs. 60-lakh loss.”
The management terminated the services of 21 drivers, alleging that they had damaged company property and coerced other drivers into joining the strike.
“At our last negotiations, we agreed to look into the drivers’ demands, but on Wednesday, Swabhiman Sanghatna members came to our office and insisted that we reinstate the 21 drivers,” said Puri.
The management refused to entertain this demand, and the Swabhiman Sanghatna threatened another strike.
The attacks began soon after.
Around 10.30 am, unidentified men pelted stones on a Meru cab in Powai. The front glass of the vehicle, which had commuters, was smashed. No one was injured. In another incident at Dahisar, six men forced a driver to stop his car and the commuter was asked to disembark.
A similar incident took place at Kandivli. Following these incidents, Meru drivers stayed off the streets, which inconvenienced passengers at the domestic and international airports.
KK Tiwari, president of the auto-taxi wing of Swabhiman Sanghatna, blamed the management for changing its terms. “They can’t punish drivers fighting for the rights of other drivers. We will continue to be on indefinite strike unless the drivers are reinstated,” he said. Tiwari denied Swabhimaan Sanghatna’s involvement in the attacks. “It is a reaction of angry drivers, we have nothing to do with it.”
Meru’s regular customers, already disappointed with the frequent strikes, are worried about their safety. “I will not travel in Meru cabs for a while. These attacks are scary and commuters should not be held at ransom,” said Vijaya Shah, a Ghatkopar resident and regular Meru user.
The administration has registered police complaints and has written to the police commissioner to look into the matter.