Strike takes autos off Delhi roads, commuters hit (Lead)

February 28th, 2012 - 5:52 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Feb 28 (IANS) Thousands of Delhi residents used to travelling by auto-rickshaws for their regular commute were hit Tuesday as many drivers of these ubiquitous three-wheelers joined a nationwide trade union strike.

The capital has around 55,000 auto-rickshaws, with about 35 auto trade unions — of which 13 are registered — fighting for their interests.

“About five percent of autos were plying today (Tuesday) in the city. Most of the autos which are plying belong to the trade unions which are not registered and they are going against the trade unions. We have warned them,” M.S. Mansoori, Delhi state chairman of the Rashtriya Rajdhani Kshetra Tipahiya Chalak Union, told IANS.

With a large number of these yellow-green carriages not plying, many people complained of a tough time in reaching their places of work and study.

“The buses are crowded, there is no certainty about their frequency and the Metro line is far from my house. So I am dependent on autos,” said a furious Riyaz Qadir, a resident of Jamia Nagar.

Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) claimed they were plying extra buses.

“We usually ply about 5,100 buses in the city. But today (Tuesday) we are plying 200 extra buses for passenger convenience,” Sharat Kumar, spokesperson for DTC, told IANS.

But people said the DTC bus frequency was low.

Premjeet Singh, a businessman from east Delhi, complained that he had to walk around two kilometres from his home to the nearest Metro station as he could not get an auto.

“I had to walk about two kilometres to the Metro station, as I couldn’t get an auto,” he said.

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

“The autos were not plying, so many took a rickshaw for the nearby Metro stations and I have earned today what I usually earn in a week,” Babu Ram, a rickshaw-puller, said.

Auto and taxi union leaders said they were participating in the strike to protest government policies.

“The prices are skyrocketing but despite that auto fares haven’t been increased. Apart from this, the government has given a contract to the Delhi Integrated Multi-Modal Transit System (DIMMTS) to install the Global Positioning System (GPS) in auto rickshaws.

“DIMMTS is providing GPS for Rs.15,000 while in the markets it’s available for Rs.2,500,” Mansoori said.

Meanwhile, the Delhi government Monday evening enforced Essential Services Maintenance Act on all the power companies.

“Delhi government has clamped ESMA on all power companies, including generation, distribution and other power companies in view of the proposed strike. ESMA would remain in force for six months,” a press statement said.

As many as 11 trade unions, having about eight lakh public sector employees, barring the railways, are participating in the strike. The unions are demanding an end to contract labour, amendments to the Minimum Wages Act, an increase in gratuity payout and compulsory registration of trade unions within 45 days.

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