Mumbai: App-set auto union to protest on February 15

Feb 03, 2016, 07:00 IST | Shashank Rao

Mumbai’s largest autorickshaw union’s members will stay off roads on February 15 in protest against app-based aggregators like Uber and Ola; they will also demand 1-lakh new permits

The popularisation of app-based taxi aggregators has rubbed Mumbai’s age-old taxis and auto rickshaws the wrong way. Raising their voice against the same, the city’s largest auto rickshaw union, lead by Shashank Rao – son of veteran union leader Sharad Rao – has called for a day-long protest on February 15.

Union members will park autorickshaws outside the RTO offices. Pic for representation
Union members will park  autorickshaws outside the RTO offices. Pic for representation

“The state government has been sitting on the City Transport Scheme 2015 for several months. Till the draft doesn’t get approved, they should ban Uber and Ola from the roads. We will protest against their operations on February 15,” said Rao, President, Mumbai Auto Rickshaw and Taximen Union.

Shashank Rao, president of the Mumbai Auto Rickshaw and Taximen’s Union
Shashank Rao, president of the Mumbai Auto Rickshaw and Taximen’s Union

They will be keeping their rickshaws off the road and most of them will be parked outside the four Regional Transport Offices (RTOs) at Tardeo, Andheri, Wadala and Borivali. The auto union claims that over the last few months, the number of vehicles operated by Uber and Ola cabs has shot up twice and surpassed 15,000.

CNG vs diesel, petrol
The unions also complain that unlike the regular auto rickshaws, taxis, fleet cabs and even BEST buses, vehicles of app-based aggregators like Uber and Ola hardly run on CNG and instead use diesel and petrol. “The Uber and Ola cabs are illegally plying on the road without any permit (for plying as taxis). We are asked for all documents but nothing of that sort is put in place for these aggregators. So, I had gone on hunger strike in protest,” said KK Tiwari, a leader of Auto rickshaw Union Swabhiman Sanghatana led by Nitesh Rane.

Apart from this, the unions are also blaming the proposed hike in permit charges made by the RTOs from a mere Rs 200 to Rs 15,000. At present, RTOs are renewing dead permits – those which earlier were in use but haven’t been renewed over the years – to the tune of around 42,000 auto rickshaws in Mumbai and its metropolitan region.

1 lakh new permits
The unions also want at least 1-lakh new auto permits for Mumbai to be issued in the coming months so that there is no need for the mobile aggregators. But these unions are not taking any responsibility about the illegal autos in Mumbai, which carry as many as six people at the same time. “These illegally operating auto drivers ply rickshaws without permit that need to be scrapped . When our drivers try to stop them, they bash them up,” added Rao.

The union claims they have complained to traffic police about the illegal autos and also stated problems persisting in areas like Kandivli (east), Govandi, Kurla and Bandra (east). Meanwhile, RTO officials claim they are waiting for regulating the draft of City Taxi Scheme 2015 by the State Cabinet, without which they cannot take any action against the mobile aggregators.

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