Autos get MNS, Sena 'lessons'

A day after MNS chief Raj Thackeray warned arrogant auto drivers to fall in line, attacks on autos in different parts the city were reported

Activists from Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) and Shiv Sena (SS) went on a rampage yesterday, against auto rickshaw drivers in suburban Kurla, Sion, Chembur and Jogeshwari. Vandalism prevailed as workers of both parties took the law in their hands. They damaged many autos across the city, tore the hoods and forcibly fitted electronic meters by removing mechanical meters.

My way or the highway: MNS' Transport Unit Division President Haji
 Arafat Shaikh forcibly installed an electronic meter at Kurla.

PIC/Pradeep Dhivar

Raj Thackeray had come down heavily on striking auto unions stating that their demands were not in conformation with the law, and that auto rickshaws and taxis would have to install electronic meters.

"We installed electronic meters in 200 rickshaws after taking permission from the RTO," said Haji Arafat Shaikh, president, MNS Vahatuk Sena.

The officials from Regional Transport Office (RTO), however, stated that the government hasn't decided on the type of electronic meters to be installed as yet. "These electronic meters [installed forcibly] haven't been approved by the government," said a RTO official.

Meanwhile, both the political parties claimed that it was their 'style' of supporting the crack down on errant auto rickshaw drivers, initiated by RTO. At Sion, a rickshaw driver was beaten up by the activists from MNS Vahatuk Sena, for refusing to ply a lady apparently rushing to a hospital in Chunabhatti.

Some Shiv Sena activists forced a group of drivers at an auto rickshaw stand in Ghatkopar to install electronic meters. "The incidents in Bandra and Vile Parle were orchestrated by the Shiv Sena. Auto drivers who behave arbitrarily have been taught a lesson," said Sanjay Raut, senior Shiv Sena MP.

Ten arrested
At least 10 activists were arrested for indulging in violence. There were also unconfirmed reports of auto rickshaws being set on fire by some activists. Similar moral policing by both the parties could be expected today at several long distance railway stations -- Kurla LTT and Bandra Terminus.

The fallout is the resonance of a strike on Oct 3 by auto drivers led by Sharad Rao, chief of Mumbai Autorickshaw Men's Union, which crippled the suburbs, causing trouble to the public.

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