The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) has decided to step in and deal justice to auto drivers in the city for going on two strikes in the past two weeks and troubling commuters.
Spotting an opportunity in the state’s unwillingness to take a tough stance with auto drivers and Mumbaiites’ growing anger, on Tuesday, the Raj Thackeray-led party got involved in the issue and warned the city’s one lakh auto drivers of a “jan andolan [people’s agitation]”.
Thackeray has appealed to citizens to agitate against errant drivers on Wednesday, which means the MNS cadre is likely to come out on streets and ‘discipline’ auto drivers.
“People are tired and their anger will be visible from tomorrow [Wednesday],” Thackeray said.
“They [the union leaders] should remember that the state does not have enough police to protect them,” he added.
He targeted the North Indian drivers, accusing them of blackmailing citizens. “Over 95% auto drivers indulging in malpractices were from UP and Bihar,” the MNS chief said.
The party has, in the past, staged violent protests against North Indian migrant workers, and its members have beaten up taxi drivers.
Auto union leader Sharad Rao organised a strike on Monday to put forth several demands, including fare revision.
However, activists insist that the strike was to put pressure on the state and force transport authorities to stop their crackdown on autos with tampered meters and drivers refusing fares.
“Rao has no business except to strike work and if he continues, we will ensure that he will not be able to step out of his house. This is Raj Thackeray’s challenge,” Thackeray said, demanding that the electronic meters be installed immediately.
Referring to Chandrika Pande, a Vikhroli resident who was beaten up by drivers when she objected to them refusing fares, he said, “These drivers are trying to show their might. I will break this arrogance.”
He also flayed Samajwadi Party MLA Abu Azmi for supporting auto men.