Short fuses galore in crowded buses

Apr 17, 2012, 07:01 IST | Nivedita Dargalkar

Western suburb residents underwent a harrowing time yesterday, as the Sharad Rao led-Mumbai Autorickshaw-men's Union auto-drivers were off the roads for the entire day.

Although the government increased the frequency of buses on various routes, BEST buses and trains were unusually crowded with office goers, students and senior citizens bearing the brunt of the strike.

Unfair: Commuters queuing up for already packed buses gushed forth with complaints of how the auto rickshaws were holding them to ransom. Pic/Rane Ashish 

A fuming Agam Manjrekar (30), engineer, who was travelling in an over-crowded bus from Vazira Naka to Borivli station, said, “The auto unions are holding commuters to ransom, and have now made it a habit to torment people. Asking the government to fulfil their demands of a fare hike only means that they will do it again in the future. A law must be passed to prohibit these errant drivers from holding strikes.”

Another commuter, Akshay Sisodia (28), who commutes from Borivli to Malad every day in an auto, said, “Rickshaw drivers are deliberately troubling the working class in order to pressurise the government. Why else would they plan their strike on the first working day of the week? ” Drivers from the other unions had stated that they would not support the agitation, and chose to ply yesterday. But, they took full advantage of the scarcity situation. Commuters were faced with numerous instances of rogue drivers cherry-picking fares and refusing short trips.

Shrishti Parekh (52), who was waiting for an auto to take her to Bangur Nagar from Mindspace, Malad (a short distance), was blatantly refused by a rickshaw driver. However, to her shock, the very next moment, he nonchalantly agreed to ferry another passenger wanting to commute to a mall in Andheri. “Drivers refusing short-fares today is inconsiderate, considering the hassles we are undergoing,” said a visibly incensed Jamna Parekh (45), who wanted to ply to Thakur Complex from Kandivli station, but was refused several times owing to the short distance.

Constrained by the lack of rickshaws, fights between passengers were also witnessed, as passengers lost their cool. Bhavna Mankodia, who witnessed one such fight in Bandra when a rickshaw driver preferred a commuter wanting to ply to Andheri, as against another wanting to ply to Kalanagar, said, “The rickshaw unions want to create chaotic situations, so that the tired people and the government then agree to give in to their demands without any resistance.” 

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