After failing to make the government step on the gas in making CNG more readily available, auto rickshaw unions in the city have decided to hit the roads on May 10 and 15 for agitating.
“Half our time is spent in the long queues at CNG stations,” grumbled several three-wheeler drivers MiD DAY spoke to. Rickshaw Panchayat president Dr Baba Adhav declared that a peaceful demonstration would be held before the office of Maharashtra Natural Gas Limited (MNGL).
At present, the city has 14 gas stations of which 13 supply CNG to light commercial vehicles and one in Shivajinagar provides the fuel to rickshaws. Drivers say the resources are inadequate for 40,000 autos in the city.
“The agitation will start at Shivajinagar, opposite State Transport Bus Terminus, and will move to the office of Maharashtra Natural Gas Limited (MNGL), which we expect to shut down on May 10. The protest will be totally peaceful, and enrolment for it has already started at various rickshaw stands and also at the main office of Rickshaw Panchayat at Bhawani Peth. Those who want to join the agitation should be mentally prepared to go to jail,” Adhav said.
Nitin Pawar, general secretary, Auto-rickshaw Action Committee, said, “Promises about CNG supply made by the state transport commissioner on April 12 are yet to be fulfilled. It has been reported that district collector Vikas Deshmukh also gave false assurances about CNG supply to rickshaws. Dr Adhav had warned Deshmukh about the agitation on May 10 when he spoke on the subject on April 15.”
“It is really a shame that the district collector had also issued a time-bound schedule for starting new CNG stations in the city, but none of them have opened yet,” he added.Baba Kamble, president, Maharashtra Rickshaw Panchayat, said, “Unavailability of CNG is a grave issue and we too will join the protests on May 15. Pune needs more CNG stations as auto drivers had retrofitted their vehicles with the expensive CNG kits long back.”
His words were resonated by others. Bapu Bhave, treasurer, Pune City Auto Rickshaw Federation, said, “We are also joining in the agitation on May 10. CNG is a major concern for rickshaws in the city and the government needs to make this a top priority.”
“CNG is cheaper, but the problem is that I have to spend a minimum of 4 hours to fill my tank at any gas station. This automatically affects my business,” said Subhash Jagdale, an auto driver from FC Road. “The Shivajinagar CNG pump is much better, but most drivers preferring it results in heavy rush and delays. I go to the Pimpri-Chinchwad pumps for fetching CNG instead, but that is equally time consuming,” said Umesh Rane, a rickshaw owner from Budhwar Peth.
Delays, and more delays
Sanjay Sharma, GM (Marketing), MNGL, had assured on April 16 that four CNG pumps would be set up at Pisoli, Nigdi, Paud Road, Warje and Ahmadnagar Road. Sources from MNGL office, however, stated that the company could only commence the gas station at Nigdi three days ago. The Pisoli pump was also supposed to start the same day, but was stalled by some technical problem. “The three remaining pumps at Paud Road, Warje and Ahmadnagar Road will be commissioned by the end of June 2013,” a source informed.