Commuting troubles loom large for Ranchi residents as more than 13,000 auto drivers go on indefinite strike from Wednesday to protest against the administration’s crackdown on unauthorised and unfit autos.
Considered the lifeline of the capital city, the absence of autos is expected to affect more than two lakh daily commuters in addition to thousands of schoolchildren who rely on their service on a daily basis.
In the absence of a viable alternative, fuel-run autos rule the state capital with 40% share in the city’s modes of transport. The 40 buses in the city account for just 1%, while cycle rickshaws make up 3%, according to a survey by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policies (ITDP).
“Autos provide services to more than two lakh people of the city daily. Besides, over 1,000 autos offer their services in schools. Therefore, our strike would almost paralyse the city,” acknowledged Ramkumar Singh, working president of the Jharkhand state diesel auto drivers association (JSDADA).
Undoubtedly worried by the sudden strike call, parents body Ranchi Abhibhwak Manch (RAM) has requested the district administration to arrange an alternative means of transport for students. “The strike will invite a certain trouble for parents as thousands of students take auto service to go to their schools every day. Now parents will have to bear the burden,” RAM president Ajay Rai said.
However, the only available alternative public transport — city buses — is far from sufficient in number. Though, the Centre had provided 70 buses to Ranchi under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) in 2010, only 40 buses currently ply in the city.
“We have been demanding more buses from the government to end the auto domination in the city,” lamented Kishor Mantri, one of the proprietors of KM Associate, which has been hired by the Ranchi Municipal Corporation to operate and maintain government city buses after the Jharkhand tourism development corporation stopped service in April 1, 2015.
A daily commuter, Rajesh Singh, said, “In every auto strike, we suffer a lot. We are badly dependent on autos in the absence of government modes of transport.”
The strike call comes in protest against the administration’s crackdown on unauthorised and unfit autos in accordance with a high court order.
More than 13,000 autos — of which about 2,500 are petrol-run — ply in the state capital, but the Ranchi administration had issued permits to just 3,335 autos.
Environmentalists say this heavy rush of unauthorised autos not only causes major traffic snarls but also pollutes the city air. “Diesel autos are major contributors to pollution in the city. A diesel-run auto pollutes the environment seven times more than a petrol-run auto after a few years of operation,” city-based environmentalist Nitish Priyadrashi said.
He added that Ranchi air showed 9,000 nanograms of black carbon particles per day against the permissible range of 600 to 1,500 nanograms. “Shrinking greenery and increasing concretization have already deteriorated air quality of the city,” Priyadarshi said.
ITDP project manager Rajendra Verma said, “The government must have an efficient public transport. There should be a regulatory authority on autos plying in the state capital. In the absence of efficient transport system, autos are acting as public transport of the city.”