Mumbai’s roads have rarely appeared as roomy as they did yesterday. Gone were the typical traffic snarls. That, however, was small solace for students and office goers, as the sparsity of taxis and autos, especially in the early morning hours, proved particularly perturbing. In the western suburbs — especially in areas like Kandivli, Borivli, Kalanagar and Andheri — auto rickshaws were a rare sight. Only a few share-a-rickshaws were plying, picking and dropping people to nearest railway stations. Nishit Mehta, a resident of Andheri, said, “For once I reached the railway station in 10 minutes, which on normal days takes at least 25minutes”.
Charge at will!
Auto drivers were seen charging Rs 10-15 per person, instead of going by meter. These three-wheelers could be perceived parked at several byways adjoining arterial roads till afternoon. Even in the eastern suburbs, with areas like Chembur, Mulund and Vikhroli, fewer rickshaws were available. “Autos weren’t leaving the respective areas and were roaming within fixed distances,” said K Iyer, who struggled to reach Ghatkopar from Chembur. Auto unions said services were severely affected in the morning hours, with over 65 per cent of the vehicles staying off roads. There are 1.04 lakh rickshaws in the city.
“Fewer autos were available in the morning hours due to violence and possibility of vehicles being vandalised,” said Thampi Kurien, leader of Mumbai Rickshawmen’s Union. He also claimed that three-wheelers weren’t running as even shops stayed shut and people chose not to venture out.
By 4 pm, the situation had changed a bit. “Most rickshaws were back on the roads as people had come out too,” said Shashank Rao, leader of Mumbai Auto Rickshawmen’s Union. Correlatively, the island city saw a scarcity of taxis. Of the nearly 42,000 black-and-yellow cabs, a majority were parked on the roads and didn’t ply at all. Areas like Shivaji Park, Dadar, Parel, and some locations in south Mumbai, were affected. “At least 85 per cent of taxis didn’t run due to fear of violence,” said AL Quadros, leader of Mumbai Taximen’s Union. In many areas, drivers complained of protestors puncturing tyres of taxis and rickshaws.
CR, WR on track
On the other hand, both Central and Western Railway ran services with only minor mires. Railway police stated that demonstrators, unsuccessfully, tried to stop train services at Sion and Malad stations. Sources said, these were nothing more than publicity stunts as protestors simply came onto the tracks, posed for pictures, and in less than five minutes left the stations. “There were no hold-ups in train services,” said a railway official. However, the number of commuters dropped drastically during the day.
Around 37 lakh commuters travel by Central Railway (CR) every day, but the figure was somewhere near the halfway mark yesterday. CR officials claimed that exact numbers on ticket sales weren’t available yet, but there was a substantial slump. Similarly, traffic on WR too took a hit, as trains were as good as empty during afternoon hours. WR ferries 33 lakh commuters daily. Yesterday, the number was far less.