Day 3: Auto thugs keep meter down

Sep 22, 2011, 09:43 IST | Maleeva Rebello

Fearing a backlash by a gang of hooligans, most autos stayed off the streets, but as evening dawned, several autos opted for business over solidarity

Fearing a backlash by a gang of hooligans, most autos stayed off the streets, but as evening dawned, several autos opted for business over solidarity

The auto strike in suburbs managed to flow into its third day only by sheer force - quite literally. A gang of ruffians, who were the ringleaders of the illegal strike, had threatened and coerced most rickshawallahs to join their strike and stay off the roads.

Starting to move ahead: On day three of the rickshaw strike, several
drivers opted to stay off the road, but as time passed, several came out
to ferry passengers and earn a living. PIC/MALEEVA REBELLO

And on the third day, the fear of being assaulted by a mob and having their vehicle damaged, was the only compelling factor that kept autos parked on the streets.

Ramvilas Gawda, a rickshaw driver at Malad, said, "The union urged us to get back to work by Wednesday, but rickshaw drivers whose meters have been confiscated forced us to join them. They threatened to resort to violence if we did not abide."

Sanjay Chavan, a rickshaw driver, who also chose not to ferry passengers, added, "A rickshaw driver was beaten up by a mob on Monday and that incident has really frightened me. Life is more important to me than a day's earnings. I have four children and a wife to look after."

Echoing the fear that most rickshaw drivers were experiencing, Thampy Kurian, general secretary of Mumbai rickshawmen union, said, "Rickshaw drivers are afraid that their rickshaws will be damaged by hooligans. The autos that are plying belong to drivers in urgent need of money. They are plying internally in areas that they deem safe. If the police come forward and offer some sort of protection to the drivers, then most definitely all rickshaw drivers will be back on the roads."

Autos want to break free
There were a few rickshaw drivers who chose to do business rather than be loyal to the striking auto drivers.

Weary of the losses they had already incurred in the last two days, some drivers chose to ferry passengers.

One auto driver at Bandra, by the name of Mohammad Riyaz, lamented, "Many rickshaw drivers have decided to take the risk of ferrying passengers. We have to take care of our families and need the money. I have three children; a wife and aged parents to look after and many rickshaw drivers like me have large families to support.
Our meters are not tampered."

And as the day passed more rickshaws braved to ferry passengers, which gave commuters a reason to smile.

Mohan Jadhav, who works in a law firm said, "Today, surprisingly, the first rickshaw driver I hailed agreed to ferry me, and thanks to the RTO crackdown, the meter reading was lesser than usual too."

And the rickshaws plying between MIDC and SEEPZ in Andheri brought some much-needed relief to passengers.

Suma Padgaonkar, who works as SEEPZ, said, "Thankfully the rickshaws are working now, and I don't have to travel by the overcrowded buses." Similarly, Sumeet Gupta said, "The rickshaw drivers yesterday were taking Rs 200 per person to Powai on a sharing basis. I am glad that there are a healthy number of rickshaws plying as per the meter."

BMC strike
The BMC workers strike also brought a sigh of relief to citizens yesterday. The BMC took action against seven BMC workers who were suspended for encouraging others to protest at BMC-run facilities. {Assistant Municipal Commissioner Mohan Adtani said, "The losses incurred by the BMC on the day of the strike will be taken from the union." The Industrial Court on their part has already sent a notice to the Municipal Mazdoor Union.

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