According to the latest economic survey, the average income of an Indian is about Rs 6,300 a month. There is good reason for sharing this piece of information, as after the revised hike in the minimum fare to Rs 12, the monthly payoff by running an auto rickshaw would be, hold your breath, about Rs 48,000. Incidentally, money, or the lack of it, was one of the prime reasons behind the one-day strike declared by auto unions on April 16.
Auto rickshaw unions have been crying themselves hoarse, demanding a revision in fares based on the cost of CNG that is used as fuel, and after considering the current cost of living and other factors before deriving the new fares. But finally on April 13, the state government hiked the minimum fare from Rs 11 to Rs 12, which will come into effect from April 20.
Do the math
The Re 1-hike might sound meagre, but as per calculations stated by auto unions in Mumbai, the average income from an auto will be Rs 1,600 per day. Each auto runs in two shifts. So, every driver will make around Rs 750-800 every day. However, it is the auto permit holders, some of whom own several three-wheelers, who take away the lion’s share, leaving a driver about Rs 8,000 to Rs 10,000 a month. Sharad Rao, the union leader at whose behest the strike was called, said that on an average a driver flags off (turns the flap of) the mechanical meter at least 50 times a day. “The interim relief (Re 1 hike) will allow an auto to earn at least Rs 1,500 in a day,” Rao told MiD DAY.
Members of auto unions claim that in 1998, cost of the rickshaw was around Rs 42,000. However, the figure has escalated to Rs 1.6 lakh. Apart from this, even the prices of spare parts and other ancillaries have increased over a period of time. Claiming these as the base, the unions had brazenly demanded a hike of Rs 5, which would have taken the basic fare to Rs 16. That though wasn’t accepted. “The unions failed to give any logical explanation for justifying the Rs 16 figure. After factoring all costs, we arrived at Rs 11.44 as revised fare. But as people would face problems in returning 50 paise, we rounded it to Rs 12,” said SK Sharma, principal secretary (transport).
On Monday, nearly 98 per cent of the 1.04 lakh auto rickshaws in Mumbai were off the roads. The few drivers who were plying demanded fares as per their whims and fancies, cherrypicking passengers. Many of them forced commuters to share a ride and still overcharged them. Many autos were parked on roadsides and footpaths illegally. These were also seen outside petrol pumps, thus inconveniencing motorists. “Nearly 15,000 rickshaws were on the roads,” claimed Mumbai Rickshawmen’s Union President Thampy Kurien.
The MNS-led auto union claimed that it had opposed this strike and had run autos as far as possible. The Mumbai Grahak Panchayat on Monday also approached the courts with a public interest litigation, demanding Rs 1.25 crore as compensation for the trouble caused to Mumbaikars due to the strike. Meanwhile, the Andheri RTO issued show cause notice to 198 auto rickshaws that were either parked by the roadside or to those drivers who went to meet the officials from state transport department. “The drivers will either face 45 days suspension or will have to pay a fine of Rs 3,000 each,” said an RTO official from Andheri.
On the other hand, officials from Wadala RTO didn’t take any such step as they felt that the problem was only for a single day. “If the strike would have been for more than one day, we would have surely issued them a show cause notice. However, if directed by the government, we will definitely take action against the autos,” said a Wadala RTO official.
I don’t see why the common man must suffer due to the greed of these selfish union leaders. Why is it that every single time, it is the common man who is affected? They're earning enough. Why do they continue to harass us with these pointless and hard-hitting strikes?
— Kurve M Singh (22), Student
I believe that each person must get a fair remuneration for doing his or her job. While I see no reason for any man not to fight for his fair share, the ‘just doing their job’ part that drivers repeat constantly is what gets to me. I see them openly refuse rides to senior citizens, pick and choose their customers, and force me to alight a mile before my destination to save them the trouble of a U-turn.
— Munaf Bableshwar (23),
The drivers earn more than Rs 175 daily, which means they don’t come under the daily wages worker set in the Labour Act. They earn more than jewellers. How can their demand for hike be justified?
— I G Khandelwal, Law activist
The hike is absolutely
unjustified. Going on a strike is now more of a business for the unscrupulous drivers now.
— Anik Gadia (25), Businessman
In Navi Mumbai auto drivers ferry more than 17 to 18 passengers a day. Moreover, they don’t charge as per the meter, which is unfair and illegal. They should not ask for a fare hike.
— Shafaque Akhter (18),
— Inputs by Mustafa Shaikh and Aditya Hariharan