Auto-rickshaw drivers, on Monday, went on a flash strike in the western suburbs during the morning peak hours, in protest of the crackdown by transport authorities on tampered meters.
It all began at around 8.30am at Andheri, when few auto-rickshaw drivers parked their vehicles on the roadside and prevented other rickshaws from plying. Commuters also complained that they were asked to get down mid-way through the journey. There were unconfirmed reports about a few rickshaws being torched, while windshields of around 40 rickshaws were damaged. Areas most affected were Andheri, Kurla, Kandivli, Borivli, Bandra and Khar. "The rickshaw driver asked me to get down mid-way. He said he was afraid of getting beaten up," said Pallavi Rao, who was headed to Andheri station from Versova. To cock a snoop at the transport authorities, protesting drivers tied a red rag around their meters to suggest that the meters were not functioning properly.
Sources at the Andheri Regional Transport Office (RTO) said that Monday's strike was a backlash against their surprise checks made on September 16 and 17 to check meters of auto-rickshaws. "They are trying to pressurise us. But after this incident, we will continue such surprise checks vigorously," said an RTO official.
Auto-rickshaw unions, on the other hand, showed helplessness at this situation. "Drivers who were part of this agitation are illegal, and not part of our union," said Shashank Rao of Mumbai Auto Rickshawmen's Union. Meanwhile, India Against Corruption, which was at the forefront of Anna Hazare’s recent anti-corruption campaign, criticised the strike and ‘corrupt practices of some rickshaw owners and unions’.