Yesterday, Mumbai commuters were stranded again thanks to an autorickshaw strike that affected large swathes of the suburbs. In a sight that is tiresomely and frustratingly familiar, commuters who were not in the know were shocked to see autos off the road and contemplating other avenues in which to get to work. Others were resigned to their fate, traipsing along towards bus stops.
Thousands of autorickshaws went off the roads in Mumbai suburbs yesterday to protest the operations of private taxi aggregators and rise in permit fees. State transport commissioner Shyam Wardhane issued welcome directives allowing private cars, buses and other vehicles to operate as public transport yesterday. Though Shashank Rao, leader of the Mumbai Autorickshaw Union insisted that rickshaws had legitimate grounds for grouse, many commuters thought otherwise. Rao warned that the State Govt. is responsible for the inconvenience.
The Mumbaikar has put up with the autorickshaw drivers and their could not care less attitude for a while now. From a flat ‘no’ which is a refusal to ply, to making uncalled for demands like willing to ply only in a certain direction, the city has often been at the mercy of the autos and their whims.
Commuters will, of course, be aware of certain stations which are notorious for having rickshaws that do not go ‘short’ distances. They are also familiar with rickshaw drivers outside stations especially, who refuse to ply by meter. Rao & Co. must realize that a vacuum had been created because Mumbaikars were at their wits end, when it came to cabs and rickshaws. As it happens when there is a vacuum, entrepreneurs step in to fill it as it has happened with private aggregators. In fact, going off the roads is going to soon boomerang on striking transport arms as people, will start looking for alternatives when pushed to the edge. It is more productive to talk through problems and find a solution, even though it may take longer. If you hold a gun to someone’s head time and again, they may just tell you to go ahead and squeeze the trigger.