Thousands of Mumbaiites who depend on the autorickshaw to commute to work every day may not have to bear the brunt of the proposed auto strike from August 22, thanks to a raging war between rival auto rickshaw unions. Even as Sharad Rao and his allied auto rickshaw unions are threatening to go on a three-day protest from Thursday, other rickshaw unions are opposing the strike and say they won’t join in.
Rao has warned that autorickshaws won’t ply on both western and eastern suburbs of Mumbai as well as Navi Mumbai from the night of August 21. Several other unions are likely to hold a special joint action committee meeting today, to discuss the future course of action and whether they will oppose the strike call given by Rao.
“None of the other unions are party to this strike called by Rao. The auto drivers and owners who are in this trade don’t want a hike of R 25 as they feel that people would no longer take autos,” said Thampy Kurien of Mumbai Rickshawmen’s Union. He said most autorickshaw union leaders wanted a dialogue with Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, who also holds the Transport portfolio and that there was no need for any kind of protest at this stage.
Another union leader said with the festival season coming up, autorickshaw drivers feel it would affect their daily income if they went on strike. “Autorickshaw drivers are poor people and it is unnecessary to force them to go on strike. With festivals coming, they will lose out on their income. We have promised these drivers that they would be protected if they ply their vehicles,” said KK Tiwari, union leader from Swabhiman Sanghatana.