How state govt, auto union took you for a ride

Oct 05, 2011, 09:00 IST | Shashank Rao

The state transport department had sanctioned a fare hike and informed auto union leaders of the same on October 1, rendering Monday's dharna and strike unnecessary

The state transport department had sanctioned a fare hike and informed auto union leaders of the same on October 1, rendering Monday's dharna and strike unnecessary

So it was an elaborate charade, where you played the role of an unsuspecting pawn. Sources have divulged that both parties involved in the clash over auto fares -- the state government and the Sharad Rao-led auto rickshaw union -- had reached a mutual understanding, in which it was decided that the auto fares in the city would be hiked by 50 paise, with effect from October 10.

Left in the lurch: BEST buses were spilling over with passengers as
rickshaw drivers refused to ply on Monday, causing them a huge

In Andheri (East), commuters form serpentine queues at an auto
rickshaw stand. pics/Nimesh Dave, Uday Devrukhkar

In other words, all the inconvenience that you faced when roads were blocked by processions of auto wallas was a pointless farce staged by the state transport and auto drivers' unions. According to reports, the state transport department had decided on the hike in a closed-door meeting on September 29, and the union received a letter apprising on October 1, a day before drivers left commuters stranded while union members undertook a procession.The proposal for a fare hike came up for consideration on September 20, after auto drivers stopped plying on September 18-19. Sources in the RTOs revealed that a joint body, comprising all RTO officials and members of the state transport department had reached the consensus to increase the fare, in order to provide respite to auto drivers who are having to cough up more money in the wake of the recent petrol price hike.

Needless to say, both parties have some serious explaining to do. While government officials defended themselves claiming that they had already intimated the union leaders of the hike, union leaders vehemently pleaded ignorance.

Transport Secretary SK Sharma said, "The Sharad Rao-led union informed us that they were conducting a dharna, in which the auto drivers had participated of their own accord." Sources  confirmed that a letter had been sent to the union, intimating it about the hike. They also claimed that when the union leaders met the transport commissioner on Monday, the former had been requested to call off the strike.  Senior members of the Mumbai Auto Rickshawmen's Union, however, insisted that the transport department had not confirmed the pay hike. "We were told that the government is considering a hike, but there wasn't any clarity in what they said," said union leader Shashank Rao. Other union members, however, admitted that they didn't bother calling off the strike as it had already been announced to thousands of drivers in the suburbs.

"As soon as the petrol prices went up, we asked all the RTOs across the state to recalibrate auto fares. Rickshaws in Mumbai run on CNG, and the fares were revised after taking into consideration the effect the petrol price hike would have on prices of auto spare parts and other relevant indices," said a senior transport official, requesting anonymity. 

Know your new fare
While the base fare for a rickshaw ride will remain constant at Rs 11, the fare
for the second kilometre will be hiked from Rs 6.50 to Rs 7

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