For the second time in two weeks, on Monday, auto drivers went off the city roads giving commuters in the suburbs a harrowing time, especially during the morning peak hours when they had to wait in long queues and struggle to get into over-crowded buses or then foot it.
Auto drivers went on strike in response to a call given by the Mumbai Auto Rickshaw Men's Union, led by NCP leader Sharad Rao, who threatens to hold the city to ransom for the third time by saying that thousands of autos will go on an indefinite strike from November 9 if their demands are not met.
Though the union insisted that Monday's protest was for the revision of auto fares - it wants a pay hike high enough to ensure drivers earn Rs 25,000 per month - the real reason appears to be the continuing drive against meter tampering and fare refusal.
Two weeks ago, auto drivers went on a two-day flash strike after the crackdown on tampered meters began.
This time, the union has also demanded more share-an-auto routes and permission to ply in the island city.
The stir affected the eastern and the western suburbs. "I had to walk for 30 minutes from Bhandup (west) to reach the station. I am late for college," said Shikha Sanjeevan, 22, a psychology student at the Mumbai university's Kalina campus.
The few autos that were plying fleeced commuters. "After finding an auto, I was asked to pay Rs 150 to go from Kandivli station to Andheri. Normally, it costs Rs 85," said Ankita Jolapara, a private firm employee.
Commuters are also angry at the unreasonable demands being made by auto drivers.
"The auto is public transport and its tariff should be affordable to people from all classes. Besides, one cannot get up one fine morning and decide that I should earn Rs 25,000," said Sahadev Kamble, 54, a resident of Gorai.
"One has to work hard so that one's incomes increases gradually," he added
The BEST ran 58 extra services to help out commuters.
When asked what action would be taken against the auto men, VN More, transport commissioner, said: "Auto drivers are not public servants neither is their service a public undertaking so they don't come in the purview of Essential Services Act. For the regulation of fare and behaviour, the RTO has provisions."
The traffic police said traffic was not hit by the protest rally at Bandra-Kurla Complex.