Even after a steep fare hike of Rs3 last year, commuters will have to be prepared for a spree of agitations by auto drivers this year.
The Sharad Rao-led Mumbai Autorickshawmen’s union (MAU), on Thursday, announced a series of agitations starting from Bharat Bandh on February 20 and 21. Auto drivers plan to strike work from March 5-7 and April 25-May 1.
MAU president Sharad Rao, who attended a meeting with the transport commissioner on Thursday, said, “We want 1 lakh new permits for badge holders and social security for autorickshaw drivers. If the government doesn’t invite us for a discussion soon, we will go ahead with our agitations as per the schedule.”
The union also wants the state government to set up a separate board for auto drivers on the lines of labour commission. The idea is to provide benefits such as pension, medical and life insurance to the drivers.
“Our drivers pay Rs400crore annually in the form of premium to insurance companies. The money should be collected and maintained by the government as a separate fund, similar to the BrihanMumbai Electric Supply Transport (BEST). The amount could be used to settle accident claims if any or for drivers’ benefit,” said Rao.
While hundreds of auto drivers participated in the rally, it did not affect the services. VN More, transport commissioner, said, “The delegation didn’t mention anything about agitation to us. They asked us for more autorickshaw stands. We have asked them to submit the exact locations and help in the survey to be conducted by the traffic and civic officials.
If found suitable, their locations would be approved.”
About the social security demand, More said, “It is a policy matter. We have asked them to approach the department concerned.”
Meanwhile, the Mumbai Grahak Panchayat has asked the chief minister to evoke ESMA against auto unions and their leaders who have threatened to go on a strike on February 20, 21, thus bringing the essential services such as public transport to a halt.