In response to the crackdown on rickshaws with tampered meters, a defiant Mumbai Autorickshawmen's Union has warned of an agitation against the transport department.
On Tuesday, the union's president Sharad Rao announced a list of demands, which included a hike in tariff to ensure rickshaw drivers earn at least Rs 25,000 per month.
The union has threatened a protest on October 3 to press for their demands. “Nearly 5,000 rickshaw drivers will stage a dharna and will fast outside the transport commissioner's office on Monday demanding [more] share-rickshaw stands within 30 days,” Rao said.
Leader of the union Shashank Rao said he opposed drivers who tampered meters, but refused to blame them for cheating. “Drivers do it as they have to eke a living. Inflation has risen dramatically, but auto fare has gone up only by Rs2 in six years,” he said.
Refusing to accept blame for rickshaw drivers who refuse passengers, Shashank Rao suggested that more share-rickshaw points be introduced to end commuter woes. “If share-rickshaw points are introduced at appropriate locations, rickshaw drivers will get earn enough fare and will not refuse passengers for short trips,” Shashank Rao said.
The union has also demanded issuance of 1,40,000 permits, which will mean as many additional rickshaws on the roads. “With more rickshaws, instances of fare refusal might drop,” Sharad Rao added.
Shankar Salvi, secretary of the union, opposed electronic meters saying that those too could be tampered with. “If they don't intend to tamper meters, why are they trying to prove that electronic ones are not tamper-proof,” asked a senior RTO official in response.
Transport activist Chandrashekar Khandekar said, “If they claim share system for short distance, then, the term 'short distance' should be well-defined.”