The indefinite strike of autorickshaw drivers from April 16 may take a violent turn, president of Mumbai Automen's Union Sharad Rao warned on Tuesday.
Reiterating their decision to go on strike from midnight on April 15, Rao said, “If somebody tries to break our protest, we will break them. We don’t encourage violence, but we will retaliate if anyone attacks us or tries to stop us from holding the protest or conducting the strike.”
The union leader said not a “single three-wheeler from the city would be on the road during their strike”.
“I will write to the other auto unions such as Swabhiman and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) asking for their support,” he said.
The union had initially planned a rally to the transport commissioner’s office on Tuesday, but then decided to postpone it to the first day of their strike.
The agitation is to press for the union’s demands of issuing 1.40 lakh more rickshaw permits, interim fare hike from Rs11 to Rs16 and from Rs7 to Rs9 for every additional kilometre, appointing a new trade enquiry committee to form a formula for revising fares, and also to include social security as one of the aspect while deciding the fare.
Meanwhile, the Mumbai Rickshawmen’s Union led by Thampy Kurian, which protested outside the transport commissioner’s office in Bandra on Monday, said it would not participate in the strike.
“The transport authorities have agreed to recommend to the state government about appointing a trade committee to decide the fare structure. We have temporarily withdrawn out protest and will not support any other strike,” said Kurian.
According to transport experts, Rao’s threat of violence was an attempt to show his influence, especially after Kurian convinced the transport authorities about appointing the committee.