Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Mumbai commuters face morning chaos as auto

Suburban commuters in the Greater Mumbai region were left scrambling on Wednesday morning as more than 80,000 auto rickshaws stayed off the roads to protest against cab aggregators such as Uber and Ola.

Adding to their woes, a number of taxis with affiliation to Uber and Ola also stayed off the roads in the suburbs, likely for fear of violence.
As a result, long lines were to be seen at bus stop as office-goers tried to get to their workplace or the nearest railway station.

The three-wheelers, which provide a cheap and quick option for local transport are on a day-long strike demanding formulation of strict rules and regulations against taxi aggregators. Commuters in the suburbs were also seen trying to flag down the handful of auto-rickshaws that were plying in the hope of getting a shared ride.

In certain parts, kaali-peeli taxis, as the city’s ubiquitous black-and-yellow cabs are known locally, were also not plying even though the union has not included them in today's strike.

The BrihanMumbai Electricity Suppy & Transport (BEST) management, which operates the network of city buses, has deployed additional vehicles while the police have ramped up security at key points to avoid any law and order problem.

Mumbai’s auto union leader, Shashank Rao, who took over the control of the Mumbai Autorikshaw Taximen Union from his father, Sharad Rao, told Business Standard “The talks with the state Transport Minister Diwakar Raote failed and therefore the Union stuck to its call to go on strike today.”

“We are not against the competition but there should be a level playing field. While auto rickshaws and kaali-peeli taxis have to follow stipulated rules and regulations, there are no such norms for taxi aggregators such as Ola and Uber. So our first demand is that the government should frame such norms on a priority basis and until then taxi aggregators be barred from operating on Mumbai roads,” he said.

There are about 104,000 auto rickshaws in Greater Mumbai, of which Rao claims 80,000 are members of the union he heads.

The strikers are also demanding that auto-rickshaw drivers with a three-year licence should be automatically provided a badge without any further formalities, including submission of domicile certificate. Rao said the government must take immediate action to stop illegal transporters including cars, buses and call centre vehicles.

"Today, we face competition from call-centre vehicles, mini-buses and private aggregators like Uber and Ola, who are eating into our revenue. This is the foremost challenge for every auto rickshaw or taxi driver in the city,'' Rao explained and reiterated that the government has to deal this issues firmly.

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