Thousands of autorickshaws went off the roads in Mumbai suburbs today to protest the operations of private taxi aggregators and rise in permit fees, causing hardships to lakhs of commuters.
In order to minimise the inconvenience to passengers, the state transport department issued directives allowing private cars, buses and other vehicles to operate as "public transport" for the day. "This is being done for the convenience of commuters, specially office-goers, in view of the strike," an official said.
Shashank Rao, leader of Mumbai Autorickshawmen Union which has called the strike, said, "We are opposing the operations of private cab aggregators (like Ola, Uber) and also the increase in permit fee to Rs 15,200. If there is any inconvenience to commuters, the state government will be responsible."
Claiming that nearly 90,000 autos were off the roads today, Rao said, "Our demands have fallen on deaf ears, and looking at no other way to press our demands, our union has called for a day-long strike. We made several representations to the transport authorities on how cab aggregators and illegal busses are affecting our business."
"On one side, the transport authorities are putting unnecessary burden on us, but on the other hand they have given free hand to cab aggregators. We just want to say that enough is enough," he told PTI.
However, the rival Mumbai Rickshawmens' Union termed this strike as "baseless" and said that apart from renewal of fee hike, there were "no substance" into the demands of the striking union.
"We have already registered our protest regarding extreme hike in renewal fees, and written to the state transport department. As far as opposing cab aggregators' issues are concerned, the striking union should knock the doors of court instead," Mumbai Rickshawmens' union head Thumpy Kurien said.
Kurien also alleged that members of his union were threatened when they tried to ply their autorickshaws in several parts of the suburb. The strike inconvenienced scores of commuters as many office-goers depend on autorickshaws on the share routes to ply to the railway station daily.
The police are on alert to ensure that there is no law and order problem.