Raj Thackeray warns auto union leader for harassing commuters

Singling out trade unionist Sharad Rao whose Mumbai Auto-rickshawmen's Union has threatened to go on indefinite strike next month, MNS chief Raj Thackeray today said his party would step in to counter the inconvenience caused to commuters due to their "arrogant" behaviour.

"Sharad Rao does not have any other business. He even holds the civic body to ransom. If he continues to behave like this, it will be difficlut for him to step outside his house. Let him be ready to face the challenge of Raj Thackeray and the wrath of the people," the MNS chief told reporters.

Raj Thackeray's warning to automen came a day after auto drivers went off the city roads giving commuters in the suburbs a harrowing time, for the second time in two weeks.

Though the union insists that yesterday's protest was for the revision of auto fares - it wants a pay hike high enough to ensure drivers earn Rs 25,000 per month - the real reason appears to be the continuing drive against meter tampering and fare refusal.

Renewing his attack on north Indian migrants, Raj said, "over 95 per cent of automen caught indulging in malpractices were from UP and Bihar." "All such people are coming from outside states...they are staying in Mumbai and Thane using bogus documents," he said.

"My appeal to Marathi automen is not to side with such people," he said. The MNS chief mentioned that under section 22 D of the Motor Vehicles Act, no autorickshaw driver can refuse fare, however short the distance may be. The autos will have to install electronic meters, he said.

Blasting Rao over incidents of auto taxi drivers assaulting commuters, Raj said, "I want to tell Rao that Maharashtra Government does not have enough personnel to provide security to auto taxi drivers tomorrow if people come on to streets." "If they want to show their strength, Raj Thackeray will show his strength," the MNS chief said.

Targeting north Indian auto and taxi drivers, Raj said the "culture prevalent in places where they come from, they want to bring in the same culture here in Mumbai and Maharashtra."

Flaying Samajwadi Party leader Abu Asim Azmi for supporting cause of such automen, Raj said, "the reason why Abu supports them is because they also come from the same place like Azamgarh."

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