The strike by drivers of app-based cab aggregators turned violent late on Tuesday night as some unidentified protesters set a cab afire near Green Valley in Indirapuram, Ghaziabad.
The cab driver, Rahul Kumar, said that he operated for Uber and has lodged a police complaint. Kumar, who is from Vijay Nagar, said that the protesters allegedly stopped the cab returning from Vaishali and poured some inflammable substance before setting it afire. “There were nearly 15-20 protesting drivers who were hovering around on bikes. They hurled stones and I had to stop before they poured inflammable substance and set my car afire. They took away one mobile while two mobile got burnt inside the car. I have been driving for Uber for past 3-4 months,” Rahul said.
The strike by Ola and Uber drivers, meanwhile, worsened on Wednesday morning, as agitating drivers turned violent. Office-goers had to once again resort to alternative ways to reach their workplace while the autos reportedly refused to go by the meter. Instances of drivers, who returned to work, being assaulted and their cars getting vandalised were reported from across the Capital, though no police complaint was made.
After a meeting with representatives of Rajdhani Tourist Driver Union and managements of Ola and Uber, the government said, “It was firmly conveyed to the companies to look into the problems faced by drivers… Majority of the drivers are not in favour of any strike but some external anti-social elements are illegally preventing the app-based drivers from plying their vehicles”.
Transport minister Satyendra Jain also directed his department to inform Delhi Police about locations where groups leading the protest are attacking drivers and ensure criminal complaints are lodged.
On Wednesday morning, very few cabs were available to commuters. The waiting time for each being more than 15 minutes and high surge rates being applied.
Commuters said that the auto drivers also took advantage of the situation and charged enormous amounts for rides. “To get to CGO complex from my house in CR park, I had to pay the auto Rs 300 as I had no other option. Instead of cooperating, the auto drivers are having a gala time. People will have to pay when they have no option,” Nikhil Singh, a commuter, said.
“One auto driver also told me that it is payback time as these cab aggregators had taken away their business from them. He said that all their customers had shifted to Ola and Uber and they had incurred losses. So, now they have a chance to recover the loss. Amidst all this, it is the commuters who suffer. How do we get to work? These cabs made commuting so convenient that we have now grown used to them and depend on them,” Shelly Malhotra, another commuter said.
Strike turns violent
Meanwhile, Rahul Kumar, whose cab was burnt on Tuesday night said that he tried to plead with the protesters that its was his brother’s car. “My car got stolen last year and I had roped in my brother’s car. They did not heed to my request and set the car afire by pouring kerosene,” Kumar said.
The police said that they are trying to trace the culprits involved in the incident. “We have registered an FIR against the culprits who set the cab afire. Investigation is on and police deployed to check activities of protesters,” said Anil Kumar Yadav, circle officer (Indirapuram).
Rahul had dropped a passenger at Vaishali Sector-5 and was returning home when his car was stopped by several bike borne men near Green Valley Road in Indirapuram.
“We got a call from the control room about the incident. By the time we reached the spot, the cab was already in flames. The driver had de-boarded and did not sustain any injuries. He told us that the car was set afire by protesters,” said Ajay Sharma, fire safety officer, Vaishali.
During past several days, there have been small protests by the agitated cab drivers near Vaishali, Kaushambi Metro stations in Ghaziabad and also close to Delhi-border areas. Two days back, they also stopped the operating cabs and broke windscreens, punctured car tyres near Vaishali metro station. Tuesday, more than a dozen drivers also staged a sit in outside Vaishali metro station and fled the spot after police was informed.
Around 1.5 lakh such cabs ply in Delhi-NCR on a daily basis. The strike situation could have been worse but, the kaali-peeli taxi and a section of auto-rickshaw unions pulled out of the strike on Sunday after a meeting with transport minister Satyendra Jain.
On Tuesday, the Delhi government also convened a meeting between representatives of Rajdhani Tourist Driver Union and managements of Ola and Uber. The meeting, however, did not include anybody from the union.