The residents of the national capital are in for a major hassle as more than half of Delhi's 55,000 autorickshaws will stay off roads from on Thursday midnight, with some unions adamant on their demand that the government pay for the mandatory global positioning system (GPS) device to be installed in every auto.
"We were earlier hoping that the Delhi government will talk to us about our demands. But nothing has happened, so we have now decided to go for an indefinite strike from 12 tonight," Rakesh Sood, Delhi president of the Bharatiya Private Transport Mazdoor Mahasangh, told IANS.
Autorickshaw trade unions said they are not opposed to the GPS per se, but want the authorities to bear the cost burden.
"We are not opposing the installation of GPS devices, we want the government to pay for the cost, that is around Rs.15,000 per year. The government is not reducing the cost of the device even after promising," Sood said, adding that over 30,000 autos under different unions will be involved in the strike.
Pleading "economic losses", some auto unions have, however, decided not to take part in the strike that was earlier supposed to begin Thursday morning and go on for two days.
Suresh Sharma, president of the Rashtravadi Janata Tipahiya Chalak Mahasangh, told IANS: "Even a two-day strike will cause enormous financial loss to our auto drivers. We will still want the government to think over its decision and initiate talks with all the auto unions."
Delhiites, meanwhile, are bracing for a tough time.
"It is so difficult to wait for buses that are already so crowded. Autos are obviously the lifeline for us," said marketing professional Tania Ray, who takes an auto from Lodhi Road to her office in Connaught Place five days a week.
"Half of the time, the auto drivers throw tantrums... they are just trying to hold citizens to ransom," she added.
The government wants autorickshaws to be fitted with GPS devices to enable a two-way communication system that will help check speeding, route deviation and ensure commuter safety.