Auto sena to take on Shiv Sena, MNS

As Maharashtra Rickshaw Sena announces huge demonstration in city to protest against use of force on auto drivers by certain political parties, insiders from various unions say thrust of their stir will be against Shiv Sena and MNS.

About 60,000 autorickshaw drivers in the city and its vicinity are unhappy with the Shiv Sena and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) after the two political parties' recent tirade against operators of the three-wheelers. Now auto unions are planning a huge demonstration against parties that they say have made life difficult for rickshaw drivers. Though union leaders refrained from naming the parties against whom they were planning the demonstration, insiders said the thrust of the agitation would be against the Shiv Sena and the MNS. The Maharashtra Rickshaw Sena (MRS) has decided to hold the demonstration just before the upcoming civic elections.

Up in arms: Autorickshaw drivers are in the mood to protest against the
political parties who have bothered them in the recent past.
Pic/Ishan Ghosh

Public humiliation
Nana Kshirsagar, president, MRS, said workers of some political parties had severely beaten up rickshaw drivers in Mumbai and Thane and the demonstration would highlight this issue. "Some of them (auto drivers) were forced to hold their ears and do sit-ups," he said. Without directly mentioning Shiv Sena working president Uddhav Thackeray and MNS chief Raj Thackeray, Kshirsagar said the agitation decision was taken after a Marathi rickshaw driver, Prakash Bhalerao, was thrashed by political activists.

"The anti-rickshaw stand and the language of 'beat up auto drivers' from some parties and their leaders are condemnable and insensitive. Many autorickshaw unions have given their tacit support to the cause," Kshirsagar said.

Minister approached
The issue was also discussed with Labour Minister Hasan Mushrif and Mumbai's auto union leader Sharad Rao on Wednesday. "All auto drivers are not rude and many have even returned valuables and money to passengers," Kshirsagar said. Baba Adhav, president, Rickshaw Panchayat, said that both the Shiv Sena and the MNS had taken contradictory stands on the issue in Mumbai and the city.

"While they are beating up auto drivers in Thane, they are cordial with us in Pune. An MNS leader sat with us on a hunger strike here a few months ago. This is nothing but a political stunt. The issue is about the government enforcing a code of conduct for auto drivers, which parties should not politicize," Adhav said.

Sena, MNS stance
Shiv Sena spokesperson Dr Neelam Gorhe said the party was cooperative with auto drivers in the city and had always supported them on issues like mandatory uniforms and electronic meters. "The debate between welfare of the passengers and drivers has different dynamics in Pune and Mumbai. We support the rickshaw drivers but oppose the criminal elements within," she said. Anil Shidore, MNS general secretary for the city, denied any difference of opinion with the rickshaw unions. "We will stand by all just demands made by the auto unions," he said.

Rally planned at Collector's office
THE Maharashtra Rickshaw Sena (MRS) is organising a rally on November 15 to the District Collector's office to protest against the ill-treatment o fauto drivers by political parties in Mumbai. "We are also pointing out issues in the Motor Transport Act and the way rickshaw drivers are targeted by the police and the RTO," MRS workers said.

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