For more than two days this week, auto-rickshawmen went on a strike, effectively holding the city to ransom. However, if autorickshaw unions are to be believed, the well-coordinated strike was anchored by a few rogue elements and did not have any backing from union leaders.
Almost all major political parties in the state have auto-rickshaw unions affiliated with them. By Tuesday, most of these unions had approached the transport department and pleaded innocence.
Nationalist Congress Party leader Sharad Rao, who heads the Mumbai Autorickshawmen’s Union, maintained that his union had nothing to with the strike.
Nitish Rane, son of Congress leader and state revenue minister Narayan Rane heads the Swabhimaan's Autorickshaw-Taxi Union.
“We support the drive undertaken by Andheri RTO; we weren’t part of this strike,” he said.
Samajwadi Party leader Abu Azmi made an entry in the auto-rickshaw union politics with a morcha outside the Andheri RTO on Friday.
Azmi met RTO officials with a demand to raise the minimum flagdown fare for rickshaws from Rs11 to Rs19.
With no one to hold accountable for the strike, the government struggled to put things back on track.
However, officials from the RTO and the transport department insisted that the agitating auto-rickshaw drivers were being covertly backed by their unions.
“Such a sudden strike by drivers cannot be successful without the indirect backing of unions from different political parties,” said a senior official from the transport department, on condition of anonymity.