‘I’ve never felt so helpless’

Maximum city was forced to its knees by the taxi and rickshaw flash strike on Tuesday. As the government and the unions negotiated a hike in fares, it was the commuters who suffered the most.
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Updated on Jun 23, 2010 02:00 AM IST
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Hindustan Times | ByKunal Purohit & Shashank Rao, Mumbai

Maximum city was forced to its knees by the taxi and rickshaw flash strike on Tuesday. As the government and the unions negotiated a hike in fares, it was the commuters who suffered the most.

As a passenger stranded at the airport said: “I have never felt so helpless before.”

Nusrat Mirza (37), discharged from a Ghatkopar hospital after kidney surgery, had to wait two hours before he could find transport to his home at Kurla. “Two of my relatives came over to help since I could not even climb up the stairs,” said Mirza, sitting on the steps of the hospital.

It was chaos at Dadar station. As passengers got off outstation trains, many cabbies made a killing. Minus their uniforms, they offered to ferry passengers to their destinations, but for a price. Many charged Rs 500 for even short distances.

Narendra Mehta, who wanted to go to Ghatkopar with family in tow, said: “My mother can’t take the train, so I have no option. The driver’s charging me Rs 750 for a ride that normally costs Rs 150.”

Ritika Nihalani, a marketing professional, faced a tough time finding a rickshaw to take her home in Bandra. “They are charging Rs 10 per seat for the minimum distance,” she said.

Added Mehta: “The unions know that the best way to make a noise is to paralyse the city. Thanks to our authorities, they succeed every time.”

While acknowledging the hardship commuters faced, rickshaw union leader Sharad Rao said they were satisfied with the new fare structure. The minimum fare was hiked by Rs 2 to Rs 11 in Mumbai and Thane.

This offsets the loss suffered by rickshaw drivers on account of the hike in compressed natural gas (CNG) price. The new fares would help drivers earn around Rs 200 more a month. Transport Department sources said that rickshaw drivers would have faced a burden of not more than 25 paise per kilogram from the CNG hike.

“The taxi union’s demand to raise the base fare from Rs 14 to Rs 16 would be discussed on June 23 by the Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Transport Authority,” said Transport Commissioner Dilip Jadhav.

Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport buses came to commuters’ rescue as the administration ran 169 extra buses across the city. There were serpentine queues at bus stops, especially near stations. Trains too were packed, especially in the morning peak hours.

There were clashes between rival unions, each claiming credit for the fare hike.

The Transport Department, meanwhile, clarified that there would be no hike in fares of fleet cabs, which also run on CNG.

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