It was a hellish Tuesday morning for commuters in the suburbs. With rickshaws on strike for the second time in three months, commuters had a tough time getting to work.
It was veteran trade union leader Sharad Rao who extended the all-India strike called by trade unions against rising prices to rickshaws. Rao, president of the Mumbai Auto Rickshaw Union, claimed the strike was for the common man’s benefit.
Virtually all of the city’s 1.04 lakh rickshaws stayed off the roads. The few that did ply soon complied with the strike call after reports of violence.
Across the suburbs, commuters hurrying to stations or bus stops were a common sight.
There were long, snaking queues at bus stops, while the buses were packed. “After we received complaints from areas such as Andheri, Borivli and Santacruz, we pressed 25 more buses into service,” said Sanjay Potnis, chairman, BEST Committee.
People frantically hailed private vehicles, asking for a lift to the nearest station. A few private buses ferried people to stations or important junctions.
Taximen did not join the strike; a few were attacked by rickshaw drivers. “Rickshaw drivers threatened taximen at Andheri, Saki Naka and Dadar,” said A. Quadros, general secretary, Mumbai Taxi Union.
At around 11 am, a rickshaw driver who was taking passengers was beaten up and his vehicle damaged at Mulund check naka. Violence was also reported at Santacruz, Jogeshwari, and Ghatkopar. While Rao blamed the violence on the Swabhimaan Sanghathana, the Nitesh Rane-led union denied it. Sheena Poojary, secretary (taxis and rickshaws), Swabhimaan Sanghathana, said: “We opposed the strike. We don’t have any hand in the violence.”
As many commuters used their own cars to get to work, there was heavy traffic on both highways.
The state government is now contemplating action against Rao’s union.
Even the Meru fleet taxi service was unavailable; it’s drivers have been on strike since Sunday, demanding a Rs 3 hike in fares..
Passengers landing at the airport were caught unawares as pre-paid taxis were unavailable. However, the service resumed after 11 am. Airport authorities arranged for eight buses to drop passengers to nearby stations.
Schools functioned normally. Principals said students and teachers arrived on time as students who used rickshaws were dropped by their parents.
Hospitals too were largely unaffected. “We didn’t have any cases of a delay affecting a patient’s condition,” said Dr Sitaram Gawde, dean of Cooper Hospital.