Imagine being able to flag down an autorickshaw in Dadar or Churchgate. The Mumbai Autorickshaw Union, that is very keen on seeing this happen, has planned protests at Azad Maidan on Thursday to demand that autorickshaws be allowed within city limits. The union will also send a petition regarding this to the state transport department.
Currently, the three-wheelers 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.
“The idea of segregating the jurisdictions of autorickshaws and taxis was so that the businesses of both are unaffected. Now that the number of black and yellow taxis in the city has come down, there is scope for autorickshaws to enter city limits,” said Shashank Rao, assistant general secretary, Mumbai Auto Rickshaw Union.
There are around 1.04 lakh autorickshaws plying in the suburbs, of which 60% or more are registered with the Andheri regional transport office. On the other hand, the number of taxis has gone down from 56,000 to 42,000 over the past few years. Today, the number of taxis on the road stands at 36,000.
Every day, at least 6,000 taxis are either sent for maintenance or are parked at airports, railway stations, beneath flyovers or inside lanes. With the compulsory scrapping of taxis older than 25 years, their number is expected to fall further.
The taxi union has called the auto union’s demand a bluff. “It is not possible for autorickshaws to enter city limits. There is sufficient demand for taxis. They have been making such demands for a long time now,” said A Quadros, general secretary, Mumbai Taximen’s Union.
Meanwhile, officials from the transport department feel taking any decision hastily would be futile. “This is a policy decision. So, we will first go through their demands,” said a senior transport official on condition of anonymity.
Transport experts feel entry of autorickshaws in the city would only increase air pollution and traffic congestion.