Auto strike cripples Delhi; unions refuse to budge

May 20th, 2011 - 2:09 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, May 20 (IANS) It was a tough day Friday for Delhiites as thousands of autorickshaws went off the roads with the auto unions demanding that the Delhi government pay for the installation of Global Positioning System (GPS) devices in their vehicles.

“It’s ridiculous to see such strikes crippling public transport. With buses that are already crowded and no certainty about their frequency, office-goers are bound to be dependent on autos,” said a furious Manvi Goel, who said she had no way to reach her office in Mehrauli from Sadiq Nagar in south Delhi.

“There is no metro line passing through this part of the city. I don’t know if I’ll be able to go to work,” Goel added.

More than half of Delhi’s 55,000 autorickshaws went off the roads from Thursday midnight to protest the government directive for autorickshaws to be fitted with GPS devices to enable a two-way communication system that will help check speed, route deviation and ensure commuter safety.

With both the government and auto unions refusing to budge from their respective stands, Transport Minister Arvinder Singh Lovely met autorickshaw unions Thursday to resolve the issue.

“The minister refused to shift the deadline of installing GPS systems to June 1. The unions are still thinking over the government’s plan of breaking down the installation cost of Rs.7,500 in instalments of Rs.625 per month for a year,” Rakesh Sood, Delhi unit president of the Bharatiya Private Transport Mazdoor Mahasangh, told IANS.

The cost of the device was initially estimated at Rs.15,000, but was later brought down to Rs.7,500 after negotiations.

“It is not just about GPS. We are also demanding the institution of a welfare board for autorickshaw drivers, pension and healthcare schemes for our families. As of now, it is an indefinite strike,” added Sood.

Commuters had no choice but to wait for buses or take the metro.

“There are no cabs for short distances, and even if they turn up they are full of tantrums. The only option left is to walk or take the bus to the nearest metro station,” said Shivani Sharma, a media professional in the capital.

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