In a first for the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR), Ola plans to launch an app-based autorickshaw service in Thane on Thursday.
While it comes as good news for Thane commuters, most autorickshaw unions are against it, on grounds that it will take away the livelihood of honest auto drivers.
Ola Autos will offer safe, reliable and cheaper transport option to commuters and will be tracked using GPS devices. The service has so far been supported by BJP-operated auto union, Bhartiya Janta Rikshaw Chalak Malak Sanghatana.
Sanjay Waghule, president of the union, said, “The service will benefit commuters as well as auto drivers. Around 150 to 200 permit holders from our union has decided to join the service. Those who do not want to join the service can carry out their business in peace.”
“The company won’t hire private autos. The RTOs will decide the fare for the autos,” Waghule said.
Ravi Rao, executive president of Thane Autorickshaw Men’s Union, said, “This is the government’s ploy to promote app-based transport services and create a rift between different auto unions. We will not allow the service to operate in Thane. Most autorickshaw drivers have to wait for permits for months and these services operate on tourist permits.”
Prakash Penkar, president of Thane Region Rickshaw Taxi Mahasangh, said, “These services do not abide by most RTO norms. They do not operate on meters, do not require uniform or insurance, while we are bogged down with rules.”
Commuters, meanwhile, are happy with the move. “I usually book a share ride on one of the fleet cabs as it costs less than autorickshaw. There is no waiting in the hot sun or rain nor are there refusals. The service will surely be a boon as it will cost less than the fleet cabs and will also be safer,” said Shruti P, 28, a resident of Owale, Ghodbunder Road.
Most auto drivers refuse to ply beyond Thane towards Mulund, Bhandup or even Kalyan and Dombivali. “Booking a cab is not affordable for everyone and most of the time we have to change the auto at toll nakas. App-based auto services will resolve the issue,” said Rajiv Sharma, 38, another resident of Ghodbunder.