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'What strike? We're resting'

Auto drivers continue to refuse to ply on Day 3 of the illegal strike; traffic cops form special teams to crackdown on erring drivers

Mumbaikars across the suburbs continued to jostle for space in crowded buses and packed trains, as auto drivers held the city ransom for the third consecutive day.

Even though several rickshaws were parked across the city, none were willing to ferry passengers. No amount of cajoling, pleading or threats seemed to work on the adamant drivers.



The traffic department has declared the strike illegal and immoral, and a team has been formed to crackdown on errant autowallahs. But so far neither move seems to have worked.

 To get a feel of ground reality, this correspondent decided to survey the Western suburbs. At Andheri (E), close to a hundred rickshaws were parked near the station, however, not even a single auto was willing to ferry passengers to the domestic airport in Santacruz.

When we questioned the drivers on the reason for their denial, they happily said that they were on strike. And when the correspondent told them that he would inform the traffic cops, they bellowed in chorus, "Arey sahib, hum rest kar rahe hain," (Sir, we are just taking rest).

Retaliation  
Traffic officials, on the other hand, claimed that the auto wallahs were merely retaliating for being fined over tampered meters.

DCP, Nandkumar Chowgule, Mumbai Traffic police, said, "We have provisions to penalise auto rickshaw drivers and errant cabbies if they refuse to ply or charge arbitrary fares. But we cannot take action if they are parked and have a valid reason for not plying." He added, "We are in talks with the RTO and other concerned departments to reach a consensus on this issue."

Chowgule maintained, "We are committed to give commuters a hassle-free experience on Mumbai roads and we will crackdown on errant auto rickshaws who create problems."

Maharashtra State Transport Commissioner, V N More, who agreed that the auto rickshaw drivers resort to excuses to refuse commuters, said, "Auto drivers may have reasons for not plying, but they lie in most cases.
We need to implement laws, but all this cannot be done in one day.  Before making such laws, we have to examine and study every aspect related to the law so that it is not misused by anyone in future," More added.

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