For nearly two months now, Rao, who has 26,000 drivers in his Mumbai Auto Rickshawmen’s Union, has been asserting that the union would strike over unmet demands, one of which was to increase the minimum fare. But the strike has been announced even as transport authorities have agreed to increase the minimum fare by Re 1. The new minimum fare of Rs 12 will come into effect from April 20, it was confirmed in a meeting yesterday. This only means that Rao’s union is trying to prove a point to the other unions who are not part of the strike, and that the strike is a show of numbers more than anything else.
In all this muscle-baring, it will be the common man who will have to suffer again, as on April 16, there will be very few auto rickshaws on the road, and from April 20, commuters will have to start shelling out more. Rao’s contemporaries from other auto unions have claimed that they are not party to this strike and would ask their members to ply on the said date. Thampi Kurien, president, Mumbai Rickshawmen’s Union, who claims to have 2,000 drivers under his banner, said, “We will not participate in the strike called by Sharad Rao.” Haji Arafat Shaikh of the MNS-led auto union said, “We have asked the police department to ensure safety of drivers on the road, who will be plying their vehicles on the day of the strike.”
“It will be the responsibility of the state government to ensure that things don’t go awry. We wouldn’t be participating in the strike,” said Hussain Dalwai, another union leader. When Rao was informed of the non-participation by other auto unions, he said, “During such big strikes, drivers of other unions tend to refuse the instructions given by their leaders and join the strike. We will go ahead with the strike.”
Meanwhile, other unions which are not part of the strike fear stray instances of violence against their drivers who will be plying on the date of the strike, as has been witnessed in the past when one or more unions haven’t supported a strike. The state has stated that they have instructed the police to take stern action in case there is any violence. “We will cancel the permit of those drivers who create a ruckus or take the law in their hand. If need be, we will invoke ESMA,” said SK Sharma, state transport secretary.
The date the Re 1 fare hike will come into effect
Did you know?
As per calculations, the new fare arrived at was Rs 11.44, which was rounded off to
Rs 12 as the authorities didn’t want to leave any scope for squabbles over