The sight of an autorickshaw weaving in and out of traffic won't command a second glance if you live in the suburbs. But, residents of the island city shudder even at the thought of the three-wheeler careening down the crowded roads of south and central Mumbai.
Several resident associations and individuals have come forward to express their displeasure over the Mumbai Autorickshaw Union's proposal that the three-wheeler be allowed within city limits.
Around 450 rickshaw drivers participated in a dharna at Azad Maidan on Thursday. The union submitted a memorandum of their demands to the transport secretary's office and threatened to go on a one-day strike on August 9.
Currently, autorickshaws are restricted to the suburbs - the Dahisar-Bandra stretch in the western suburbs and the Mulund-Sion stretch in the eastern suburbs. After that commuters have to switch to taxis.
According to the union, since the number of black-and-yellow taxis has come down to 36,000, there is scope for autorickshaws to enter city limits.
"We won't do this without taking into consideration the views of the people," said Sharad Rao, president of the union.
"We will carry out a signature campaign to find out how many people want rickshaws to enter the city limit."
When asked about the union's proposal, transport Secretary S Sharma, said: "I will have to go through their demands."
However, residents associations in central and south Mumbai feel that autorickshaws would add to the traffic congestion.
Anil Bhatia, secretary, Marine Drive Residents Association, said: "The average speed of vehicles has already come down due to existing traffic. The inflow of autorickshaws into the city would further worsen the traffic on the roads."
Also, the facts that most autorickshaw drivers don't follow traffic rules and park haphazardly are major concerns.
"There is a constraint of space in the city. Autorickshaws shouldn't be allowed in the city," said Indrani Malkani, trustee, V Citizens Action Network and a resident of Malabar Hill.
Residents claimed that construction of flyover and sea links would be rendered useless if autorickshaws were allowed within the city limits.
"The flyovers have brought a little relief to commuters in the city. But if rickshaws start using them then we would go back two steps," said GR Vora, member, F-north ward Citizens Committee.