At the stroke of mid-night on August 14, auto rickshaw drivers in the state will participate in a statewide strike to protest against the state government’s apathy towards their long pending demands. 

City-based federation of auto rickshaw drivers, Rickshaw Panchayat, has decided to intensify their agitation by continuing with the strike if their demands are not met. This means that nearly 50,000 auto rickshaws in Pune and Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) area will be off the road.

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Representational Picture

Their demands include: Establishing a welfare board for auto rickshaw drivers, permission to accommodate up to 10 schoolchildren in an auto against the limit of 6 students, new permits to be given on seniority basis instead of the lottery system and scrapping the decision of discarding auto rickshaws which are more than 20 years old.

Throughout the past year, representatives of the Panchayat have been following up on the issues with the state government; however, the government has failed to address their issues. With the assembly elections round the corner, they fear that if a new government comes to power, their efforts will go in vain and that they will have to start afresh.

Nitin Pawar, convenor of Rickshaw Panchayat, said, “The state government has turned a deaf ear to our proposals and they have repeatedly failed to address our grievances. So, we have decided to give the state government an ultimatum after which we will also conduct seminars across the state to appeal to other rickshaw unions to participate in the strike.”

Pawar added, “We want a welfare board for the auto rickshaw drivers which will include medical insurance and pension for the drivers. Besides this, we want that 10 school children should be allowed in the auto rickshaws instead of just six children. New permits to auto rickshaw drivers should be given on seniority basis instead of the current
lottery system which is in place.”

Pawar further added, “The state government should withdraw their decision of scrapping auto rickshaws which are more than 20 years old. For the last 12 months, the state government has only given us assurances.

If they fail to take any concrete steps, then more than six lakh auto rickshaws across the state, including 50,000 autos in Pune and PCMC will be off the road from August 15.”