Commuters struggle as auto-rickshaws remain off Delhi roads

August 17th, 2009 - 9:18 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Aug 17 (IANS) Thousands of people in Delhi Monday had a harrowing time reaching their destinations as over 55,000 auto-rickshaws went off the roads to protest the Delhi government’s crackdown on drivers operating without permits, licences and pollution control certificates.
The two-day strike called under the banner of Bharatiya Tipahiya Chalak Sangh was joined by over 18 auto-rickshaw drivers’ associations.

People commuting by auto-rickshaws had a tough time in finding autos, while the few plying on the roads were asking hefty amounts.

“My mother underwent an emergency eye surgery at a hospital in Saket and I was supposed to go and see her Monday morning. I waited for an auto-rickshaw for half an hour but could not find even one and had no idea of bus routes. Finally, I called up a friend and asked her to take me to hospital,” said Sudha Jain, a housewife.

To avoid any last-minute problems, many people tied with their friends and relatives to drop them so they could reach their offices on time.

“I knew about the auto strike, so I asked my father to drop me to office. He will come to pick me up also,” said Yashi Gupta, an IT professional.

“I managed to get an auto-rickshaw somehow even after he charged 30 percent more than routine days. We must have moved a few metres when a group of auto drivers stopped us and threatened the driver from taking any passenger. I finally got down and took a bus to reach my college,” said Rashid Akhtar, a first year student of Jamia Milia University.

Meanwhile, a meeting called by the Delhi government Monday to settle the matter could not take place as Transport Minister Arvinder Singh Lovely was busy with some other official work.

“We were called to discuss the matter but the minister was busy and nothing could happen. We have decided to carry on our strike Tuesday for the government is not listening to our problems. We have been regularly harassed by police and officials of the transport department,” Sobran Singh Rajput, president of the Bharatiya Tipahiya Chalak Sangh, told IANS.

Rajput claimed if an auto-rickshaw driver leaves his licence at home by mistake, he is fined up to Rs. 20,000.

“We are also asked to produce last year’s pollution control certificates by traffic police cops although government has issued new certificates to us. When we say we have this year’s pollution check certificates, they insist on the previous year’s too or else slap a fine of Rs.4,550,” he said.

However, the Delhi government has decided to take stringent action against auto drivers not complying with the orders.

“Auto-rickshaw drivers are striking to resist any kind of clean-up. We will not let the unruliness continue on Delhi’s roads with drivers plying without a licence,” said Lovely.

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