In the run-up to the Delhi assembly polls last year, auto rickshaw drivers had played a crucial role in the success of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
After winning 28 out of 70 seats and forming the government in the Capital, AAP treated them with special care. Now with the possibility of fresh polls, the party has again turned to its loyal support base.
AAP chief and former Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal addressed a rally of auto drivers at Ramlila Maidan on Thursday and also launched an exclusive helpline for drivers to would address their grievances.
The party’s top leaders were present at the rally, including transport minister in the previous government Saurabh Bharadwaj.
Bharadwaj said that during his tenure he had prepared several plans to end the problems of auto-rickshaw drivers. He said they were about to withdraw Delhi Police’s power to issue challans and the proposal was still pending with the Lieutenant Governor.
Kejriwal criticised the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for not doing anything for auto drivers. “Refusal is one issue that needs to be addressed as most auto drivers were challaned for refusing to go to a particular destination. We will meet the Delhi Police Commissioner to discuss this. We will demand that any auto driver who is refusing passengers to have lunch or is retiring for the day should not be penalised,” said Kejriwal.
“Other major issues like looking into the provision of 66/192A (of the Motor Vehicles Act) will be considered after we come to power,” he said. The AAP leaders criticised Delhi Police for allegedly harassing auto drivers and handing out challans under the pressure of seniors.
“An auto driver pays a monthly bribe of R5000-10,000 to various authorities but during our tenure of 49 days, no one dared to ask them for a bribe. If the junior staff of traffic police is under pressure from their seniors, they must conduct a sting operation and action should be taken against the senior personnel,” said Kejriwal.
Several auto drivers voiced their concern and said the police misuse their power to challan them. “They think we are ATMs. We have to pay R2 at CNG stations, which means they are earning R6 crore every year from us. We end up paying a bribe to get the necessary documents,” said Inderjeet, an auto rickshaw driver.
About 3,000 auto rickshaw drivers were present at the Ramlila Maidan to support Kejriwal.