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When there were no autos

delhi Updated: Aug 17, 2009 23:28 IST
Atul Mathur
Atul Mathur
Hindustan Times
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One day the streets are teeming with them but the very next day the Capital's 55,000 auto-rickshaws are off the roads.

On Monday, a large number of auto-rickshaws struck work against the Delhi government's crackdown on three-wheelers plying without valid licence and permit. But the government has decided not to succumb to the "pressure-tactics" of auto-rickshaw drivers, even as normal life was crippled.

Delhi transport minister Arvinder Singh Lovely said the government was not ready to listen to any demands of auto-rickshaw drivers.

"We are ready for a dialogue with auto-rickshaw unions on their legitimate demands. But if they ask us not to check their documents and let them ply illegally, then we are happy without them," Lovely said.

He added the strike was an attempt to "derail" the government's efforts to regulate three-wheelers.

"We are tightening the noose against autos which violate permit regulations and harass passengers. Their database is being prepared and this they do not want. By going on strike, they want to put pressure on the government," the minister said.

Seventeen auto-rickshaw unions, which represent the majority of 55,000 auto-rickshaws in Delhi, are part of the two-day strike.

The strike was largely complete as commuters had a tough time finding autos.

Violence was reported from parts of East Delhi where the members of the participating auto-rickshaw unions thrashed drivers who were trying to ferry passengers.

Auto-rickshaw drivers also blocked traffic near Anand Vihar ISBT in the morning and later presented a memorandum of their demands to the staff of the transport minister.

The strike is expected to continue on Tuesday too.

Ram Sharan Rajput, president of Rashtriya Rajdhani Kshetra Tipahiya Chalak Union, said their protest was not meant to trouble the public.

"We are fighting against the administration. We are unnecessarily being harassed. It is the government which forces us to overcharge the commuters," Rajput said.

He added that the transport department does not have enough staff at its auto and taxi division office at Burari in North Delhi.

"This results in delay in official works like transfer of permits and our papers lie in transport office for months,” he said.