The Sharad Rao-led Mumbai Autorickshawmen’s Union (MAU) has demanded a fare hike that is three times more — from Rs15 to Rs45 for minimum distance of 1.5km — during the ongoing monsoon.
The union that is opposing the withdrawal of six-seater taxis and age restriction for autorickshaws, which could have improved the three-wheeler service, has been insisting only on the fare revision. In addition to a triple fare hike, the union also demanded an annual hike.
If the fare hike or other demands are not met by June 17, the union has threatened to go on an indefinite protest. On Wednesday, even though the transport department expressed its readiness to discuss the auto union’s demands immediately, MAU resorted to a protest rally and threatened a state-wide indefinite protest from midnight on June 17.
Though the protest rally on Wednesday didn't affect auto services in city, the indefinite protest is likely to affect the service in the suburbs.
“Our stand of an indefinite protest is firm if our demands — including fare hike, social security board for auto men, withdrawal of the six-seater taxi and age restriction on autos — are not met by June 17. And during the rains, our vehicles incur more wear-and-tear. The administration and passengers should appreciate our efforts to provide service even during the rains, and should pay us a higher fare during monsoon,” said Shashank Rao, assistant general secretary of MAU.
On Wednesday, the MAU carried out a protest march from Veer Jijamata Bhosle Udyan to Azad Maidan. Prior to that, they met deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar and transport commissioner VN More.
Meanwhile, a press release issued by transport department stated that though the transport commissioner was ready to discuss the demands in the same meeting, union leader Sharad Rao requested for an independent time. Accordingly, the commissioner approved it and requested the union not to undertake a protest that could inconvenience passengers.
Shirish Deshpande, chairperson of the Mumbai Grahak Panchayat said, “There is limit for anyone to demand anything. You cannot just go on making demands this way. One loses credibility. We have stopped taking Sharad Rao seriously.”