A day after announcing that auto-rickshaws would be replaced by battery-operated vehicles, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit on Thursday said no such move was in the offing for now, but auto-rickshaw drivers threatened to resist if the government chose to do so.
"The proposal to phase out auto-rickshaws is certainly not going to be done immediately. We just want that in future cleaner fuels are used for public transport. This is in a very embryonic stage... let us see where the future takes us," Dikshit told reporters in New Delhi.
She said that many automobile manufacturers had approached the Delhi government with proposals of battery-operated auto-rickshaws, cars and vans.
Dikhsit on Wednesday created a flutter when she announced in the state assembly that her government wanted to phase out the auto-rickshaws, also known as the poor man's taxi.
"Auto-rickshaws are not a good option. They are uncomfortable and pollute environment. Auto-rickshaw drivers are unruly and harass passengers," she said then.
Over 55,000 auto-rickshaws ply on Delhi's roads and are an important means of transport for lakhs of commuters.
Though Dikshit said auto-rickshaws will not be replaced immediately, worried auto-rickshaw drivers said they would fight the move if the government goes ahead with it.
"We have no savings for tomorrow. What I earn today will be spent today. The government should take care of people like us. We will fight at every possible level if our vehicles are taken off the roads," Puran Mast, an auto-rickshaw driver, said.
Another driver, Sanjeev Kumar, who has been driving an auto for the last three years, sounded less flustered. He said it was highly unlikely that the vehicles will go off the road in Delhi.
"Auto-rickshaw drivers are an easy target for government. This decision of the government will have huge consequences. How will people like me, who earn Rs 250 daily, survive? These are a mode of transport for the common masses," he said.
Subedar Singh, 35, who is driving these vehicles for the last 10 years, said: "I have five others in my family to look after and my daily earning is not more than Rs 300. How will we survive if the government goes ahead with its plan?"
"If the government goes ahead with the decision, there will be chaos among general public, because of their dependence on auto-rickshaws. It is very unlikely that they will go off the road," he added.