Suburban commuters should brace themselves for a tougher ride than usual, as autorickshaw drivers have threatened protest rallies on September 3, 5 and 11.
Trade unionist Sharad Rao, who leads the auto unions, has found a way to bypass the recently enacted Essential Services Maintenance Act, under which union leaders can be sent to jail for calling strikes by choosing to hold protest rallies instead. Autorickshaw drivers will not run their vehicles on these days, choosing to take part in rallies instead. This will mean less three-wheelers on the roads, and more trouble for commuters in areas such as Andheri, Chandivli and Goregaon, where they depend especially on autorickshaws.
The one-man Hakim committee had invited the views of the union leader while preparing its report. Rao had suggested that autorickshaw fares be raised to a minimum of Rs27-24 for the first 2km. The current minimum fare is Rs12 for the first 1.6 km.
The protest rally on September 3 will be held in the western suburbs and the one on the fifth will be held in the eastern suburbs. Members of Rao’s union will protest outside local ward offices, police and gas stations from 10 am to 2 pm on both days.
A rally will be held at the transport commissioner’s office in Bandra on September 11 between 11am and 4pm, where protesters will call for the issuing of 2 lakh more autorickshaw permits. This protest was to be held for disclosure of the Hakim committee’s recommendations. However, the transport department has now uploaded the report on its website.
“Services may be affected to some extent on September 3 and 5,” said Rao.