City commuters have little to worry about regarding the June 18 protest called by the Sharad Rao-led Mumbai Autorickshawmen’s union (MAU), as other taxi-autorickshaw unions have refused to support the strike.
“We will ensure that the auto service remains undisrupted next week and that passengers wont be inconvenienced. Our members will ensure that three-wheelers are running normally. This protest is an attempt by Rao to earn political mileage,” said Haji Arfat Shaikh, president of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena’s (MNS) transport wing. More than 27,000 auto operators are affiliated to MNS, added Shaikh.
On Wednesday, MAU demanded that the fare for minimum distance of 1.5km be hiked to Rs45 — three times the current fare — during the monsoon.
Even Swabhiman Taxi Rickshaw Union assured that its services will operate as usual. “We are not participating in the protest as the transport department has assured us that new permits will be issued at the earliest. But if the permits are not issued soon, we will join the protest next time,” said KK Tiwari, president, Swabhiman Taxi Rickshaw Union.
Meanwhile, Maharashtra Rickshaw Chalak Sena (MRCS) said it would decide whether to operate services after assessing the situation on the day of the protest. “If there is any violence or damage to vehicles, operators may prefer to keep off the roads,” said Anil Parab, president, MRCS.
Commuters, fed up with the constant threats of strikes from auto-taxi unions, insist that Maharashtra Essential Services Maintenance Act (MESMA) should be invoked against protesting union leaders.
“So far, we have not decided whether to invoke MESMA or not. It will be decided depending on the effect the protest has. If services are not affected, there is no need to invoke MESMA,” said an official from the transport department, requesting anonymity.