Commuters stranded as auto-rickshaws, taxis stay off roads in Delhi

ArrayNew Delhi, Sep 2 (IANS) Commuters and office-goers in the national capital suffered as thousands of auto-rickshaws and taxis remained off the roads to protest against the “City Taxi” scheme of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) here.

“We are opposed to Kejriwal government’s policy of phasing out auto-rickshaws and promoting small cars like Nanos and motorcycles in Delhi. If small cars start plying, how will the auto-rickshaws survive? We will run out of business,” Rajinder Soni, general secretary of Delhi Auto-rickshaw Sangh and Delhi Pradesh Taxi Union, said.

The strike of auto-rickshaw drivers coincided with the nation-wide protest called by major trade unions to protest against the “anti-worker” policies of the central government.

Soni said about 90,000 auto-rickshaws participated in the strike on Wednesday, making the agitation a “great success”.

He warned the state government that the protest would be intensified if it fails to pay heed to their demands.

Last month, the Kejriwal government announced the launch of City Taxi scheme, under which permits would be issued to 600 cc vehicles.

The fares of these cars would be slightly higher than the autos, and the three-wheeler drivers feel it would adversely affect their business.

Besides auto-rickshaws, about 15,000 taxis, too, did not ply in the national capital, said Sanjay Chawla, leader of Delhi Pradesh Tipahiya Chalak Sangh.

Chawla said the state government failed to fulfill their demands that included 1,000 auto-rickshaw stands across Delhi, easy bank loans for those who buy new auto-rickshaws, and putting an end to the corruption in the transport department.

“I have reports that taxis and autos did not ply anywhere across Delhi. Even auto-rickshaws that operate on a shared basis, which usually run even during bandhs, did not ply today (Wednesday). This proves that majority of the auto-rickshaw drivers supported the strike,” he said.

Commuters bore the brunt of the protest. “I am stranded here (Anand Vihar bus terminal). I didn’t expect the impact of the strike to be so much,” said a commuter Bilochan Singh.

Singh, accompanied by his wife and three young children, were waiting for a bus to R.K. Puram.

“The buses that are coming as over-crowded and it is difficult to board it with my children,” he said.

Delhi Transport Corporation buses and Delhi Metro services were available for the commuters.

Another commuter Shayan Acharya, who had to go to ITO from Jangpura, said: “I couldn’t find a single auto while going to the office in the morning. Finally, I had to call my friend after about an hour to drop me to office. The roads wore a deserted look today and there very few vehicles plying.”

Those using taxis were not much better off as most radio cabs stayed off the roads and taxi services reporting long booking queues. “Most commercial number cabs will be off the roads today because there is a danger that our vehicles could be damaged,” said Suresh Chand, who works for a taxi service based out of Malviya Nagar.

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