Jal Panthaky, 32, made an odd picture sitting astride his bicycle on Tuesday morning.
With 95% of the city’s taxis being off the roads due to a disruption in the supply of compressed natural gas, the Grant Road resident decided to cycle to work to Ballard Estate. “I was wearing formal clothes and that drew strange looks from passersby. Someone even clicked my photograph on his phone,” laughed the assistant manager with a freight agency.
The avid cyclist covered the 4.5-km distance in 15 minutes to make it to his office on time, but thousands of Mumbaiites who commute longer distances weren’t that lucky.
Several had a harrowing experience as rickshaws and taxis were rare in the suburbs too.
People had to either share the rickshaws that were plying, pay the astronomical fares demanded by the rickshaw and cab drivers or climb into crowded buses.
“I had to share a rickshaw with three others from Bandra station to National College. I usually pay the minimum fare for that ride but on Tuesday the driver demanded Rs 10 from all four of us. We paid up,” said Divya Agarwal, 22, a Bandra resident.
Many drivers fleeced commuters. “Before I got into the rickshaw at Amboli, the driver said I would have to share it with others and he demanded Rs 20. I didn’t say anything as I was getting late for a doctor’s appointment. On the way, we picked up another girl and the driver asked her for Rs 15. He earned Rs 35 for a ride that he would normally fetch him only Rs 20,” said Mugdha Singh, a media professional from Andheri.
“I had to wait for an hour before I got a rickshaw at Goregaon (E). The drivers usually refuse to ferry passengers for short distances but on Tuesday they refused long-distance fares too,” said Suparna Samant, managing director, Envisage Talent Solution.
“I came across many traffic jams while travelling from Oshiwara to Andheri station as many rickshaws ran out of fuel and had to be pushed off the road,” said Smitha Menon, a media professional.
Shivani Singh, a human resource professional from Khar, had to change four rickshaws to reach her office at Powai. “It was very frustrating. The first two ran out of gas, the third driver said he would ferry me only a short distance. It took me one and a half hours instead of the usual 40 minutes,” said Singh.
Most SSC students unaffected
Mumbai: On Tuesday, Drishti Jain’s Secondary School Certificate (SSC) maths board exam was easy, but getting to the exam centre was not.
Jain stepped out of her Amboli home at 10 am on the lookout for a rickshaw, but found none owing to the disruption in the supply of compressed natural gas that largely affected rickshaws and taxis on Tuesday.
After walking some distance with her father, a friend passing by in a car spotted her and offered to take her to the exam centre.
“I was not aware of the problem when I left the house, so I kept walking, hoping to find a rickshaw,” said Jain, 15, a student of Bombay Cambridge School, Andheri, whose exam centre is 20 minutes from her house by rickshaw. “Since I had given myself enough time, I wasn’t really worried about not making it to the centre,” she said.
Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC), Indian Council Secondary Education (ICSE) and Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) students did not have a board exam on Tuesday, but SSC students faced some inconvenience in making it for their 11 am paper.
The board’s helpline received two calls from students who feared they would not make it to their centres on time. “We told them they could write their papers at the centre closest to their homes. We called up those centres and arranged for the change,” said M Ahire, who was manning the helpline.
School officials said some students had problems reaching the exam centres, but most of them were prepared for it in advance.
“People were aware of the situation, so they took made alternative arrangements,” said Father Francis Swamy, principal of Holy Family School in Andheri, who visited several centres on Tuesday to check on the situation
‘Govt should get another CNG supplier’
Mumbai: Roughly 83,000 of the city’s 1.04 lakh rickshaws didn’t ply on Tuesday after the disruption in supply of compressed natural gas (CNG). Supplies were hit after civic workers damaged a pipeline at the RCF compound at Chembur while widening a nullah.
“CNG supplies to half of our outlets were affected,” said a spokesperson for Mahanagar Gas Ltd (MGL). MGL has 150 outlets in Mumbai, of which 75 were shut. By Tuesday evening, supplies resumed, said the spokesperson.
Rickshaw and taxi drivers lined up at CNG pumps since Monday night. “I have been here since 6 am and there’s no sign of supply. Till MGL doesn’t restart the supply, we will have to wait at the pump,” said Gurbachan Singh, 68, a taxi driver.
“Nearly 85% of city rickshaws were off the roads. The state government should think of an alternative supplier to avoid such problems in the future,” said Shashank Rao, of the Mumbai Auto Rickshaw Union.
A senior civic officer blamed RCF officials for not guiding the civic contractor. “Despite repeated requests, we weren’t told of the exact location of the pipeline. Twice they gave us wrong information. Our contractor cannot be blamed,” said the official on condition of anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to the media.
He said there were many pipelines under the compound and even RCF officials did not know how they were aligned.