Commuters had to suffer for the second consecutive day as taxis stayed off Mumbai’s roads on Wednesday.
Rickshaws, however, began to ply again.
“Some taxi drivers were threatened in the morning. Fearing that their vehicles would get damaged, they decided not to ply,” said A.L. Quadros, president of the Mumbai Taximen’s Union.
On Tuesday, too, several taximen had been attacked by activists of Swabhiman, an outfit led by Nitesh, Revenue Minister Narayan Rane’s son.
“Since there were no taxis all day, I walked to Chinchpokli station to take a train back home to Sion after work,” said Jill Sanghvi, a counsellor at a non-governmental organisation at Arthur Road.
Thousands of fliers were stranded at the airport as hundreds of taxi drivers refused to run their vehicles.
Only fleet taxi services were available through most of the day.
The strike finally ended at 5.30 pm, after taxi fares were hiked by the state government, but it left passengers shuttling between terminals.
“My mother is running a high fever, but there is no way I can take her to our family physician’s clinic, even though it’s just a short drive away,” said Jaspreet Bhumra, who spent a harrowing two hours at the domestic terminal.
Finally, she had to call a private car operator who charged Rs 800 for dropping them at their Bandra residence. “We had to walk till hotel Sahara Star to get the car. I kept praying that she wouldn’t faint,” Bhumra added.
Rickshaws, though back on the roads, were of little help to those travelling with their families. “It was difficult to fit even a single strolley into the rickshaw,” said Gopal Nichalani, a real estate agent who landed in Mumbai at 11 am when air traffic is at its peak.
With few options, Nichalani’s 13-year-old son squeezed into one rickshaw with half the luggage. The rest of the family took the airport bus to Vile Parle station. The airport operator had deployed buses to drop passengers to nearby railway stations. On Tuesday, too, the Mumbai International Airport Ltd deployed 50-seater buses to transport fliers to nearby railway stations like Vile Parle and Kurla.
Transport authorities, however, sought to play down the inconvenience caused to passengers on Wednesday.
“We will take action against the errant drivers. But today [Wednesday], taxi drivers were not on strike. It might be that they chose not to run their taxis to avoid losses and will start plying as soon as the new fare is implemented,” said Transport Secretary C.S. Sangitrao.
In the suburbs, there were several complaints that the rickshaws were charging commuters as per the new tariff though it comes into in effect only on Thursday.
At many places, rickshaw drivers insisted that the fare revision had taken effect and forced commuters to pay more.