Auto strike hits Delhi, bonanza for buses, cycle rickshaws (Lead)

April 1st, 2010 - 9:41 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, April 1 (IANS) A crippling strike by autorickshaw drivers and owners demanding a fare hike hit hard the Indian capital Thursday, leaving tens of thousands stranded across the city.
Several autorickshaw unions called the day-long strike also to demand shelters for the three-wheeled vehicles and to press Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit not to phase out the estimated 55,000 autos from Delhi.

Union leaders said the strike was a “total success”.

“It is a total, hundred percent success,” M.S. Mansoori, who heads the Rastriya Rajdhani Kshetra Tipahiya Chalak Union, told IANS. “Barring a few autos that took the seriously ill to hospitals, not a single auto plied anywhere in Delhi.”

He added: “We want the government to talk to us. If they don’t accept our demands, we will plan further protests.”

Worst hit by the strike were incoming passengers at the Old Delhi, New Delhi and Nizamuddin railway stations where the autorickshaws normally do roaring business.

Most auto commuters switched over to Delhi Metro or buses to reach their destinations. A spokesman for the privately operated Blueline bus service admitted that the fleet’s income shot up by 10 percent Thursday.

The strike also proved to be a bonanza for cycle rickshaw pullers. Some of them gleefully stated that they earned an entire week’s income Thursday.

Mansoori said that autorickshaw fare, which now starts at Rs.10 for the first kilometre, should be doubled to keep pace with inflation.

“Prices of all essential commodities have shot through the roof. It is impossible to manage families from what we earn. The government must hike the fares soon,” he said.

The unions also want the government to resume issuing permits for new autos so that they become easily available.

Commuters were left struggling to reach their destinations. Many took to overcrowded buses — or taxis.

Rashi Sharma, who takes an autorickshaw from Karol Bagh to Vasant Vihar every day, said she hired a radio taxi in desperation. “I had no other choice.”

Anupama singh, a bank employee, said: “Autorickshaw is a common man’s vehicle. The government should reconsider its plan to phase out the three-wheelers. It is the cheapest mode of transport.”

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