: Defying the directives by the state government and transport authorities, the Mumbai Autorickshawmen’s Union led by Sharad Rao went on strike on Monday with nearly 1.08 lakh autos staying off the roads.
The action came despite a Re1 hike on minimum fare — from Rs11 to Rs12 — last week.
The strike, however, spelt trouble for lakhs of suburban commuters who travel by autorickshaws. Ganeshan, a banker from Kandivli, said he had to walk 20 minutes to reach the station. “Once I reached Bandra, I took a bus to my office at Pali Hill,” he said.
Malad resident Naseem Ahmed was upset as he had to visit someone at the Holy Family Hospital in Bandra. “The auto driver took three times the normal fare. When I told a police constable, he just shrugged and said he couldn’t do anything.”
Students, many appearing for their exams, had to leave their homes nearly an hour early to ensure they reached exam centres. “I had to leave 45 minutes early. Also the walk from Vile Parle station to my exam centre was bad as it was sunny and the roads are under construction. Few students even walked in late,” said Janaki Patel, a Santacruz resident.
The Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) undertaking deployed more buses on crowed routes. But these too were insufficient.
“I went to Kurla bus stand to take bus to Mahul. I had to skip at least three buses before I finally managed to get into one. But it was very crowded,” said Prasad Parkar, a Bhandup resident.
According to the RTO officials, 95% of the autos remained off roads. Although, many returned to work in the western suburbs in the afternoon, there was no relief for the eastern suburbs. Similarly, almost all autos in Navi Mumbai, Panvel, Kalyan and Thane went on strike.
“Most autos in the Mumbai suburban area were not plying in the morning, but the situation improved by noon and around 60% of them were back as per out report,” said VN More, transport commissioner.
Rao said the strike was total and all autorickshaw drivers participated to show their solidarity. He alleged that the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) and the Shiv Sena union tried to provoke his drivers.
Cabbies make money
Complaints poured in of taxis refusing short distance fares and overcharging. commuters “A taxi driver asked for Rs450 to go to Kurla Terminus. He then agreed to go at Rs350,” said Sunil Banger, a Bhandup resident.
At many places sharing autos were also asking for extra money.
At Bandra (East) the Shiv Sena had arranged for 20 taxis and nine private vehicles to run from the station to BKC. “Passengers were charged minimum fare,” said Manohar Parab, local Shakha Pramukh.
Swabhiman Sanghtana also claimed that it had arranged for autos to ferry passengers.