Many daily commuters in Delhi could feel the pinch of the 85,000 missing Autos and 15,000 yellow black Taxis as the drivers go on an indefinite strike. The Transport Union complained about the “step-motherly” treatment given to them by the Delhi Government as app- based transport services like Ola and Uber are taking their livelihood away ; reported The Hindu.
The strike however became a bane to thousands of commuters who even after de-boarding from the metro need some last mile connectivity. It also left many passengers stranded in places like Connaught place, railway stations, and ISBTs.
The Joint Action Committee formed by the twenty unions of taxis and autos has called for an indefinite strike. According to the Delhi government, the strike is “politically motivated “and taking app based cab services off the roads are out of their ambit. They also said that the center should do something in this regard.
Kishan Verma, President of All Delhi Auto-Taxi Transport Congress Union (ADATTCU), said the drivers of auto and taxi drivers are protesting against app-based services. “ Ola and Uber don’t have the permit to run their cars in Delhi. They take away livelihood of our people.” reported The Indian Express.
This is the first time unions affiliated to major political parties have come together.
PUNE: Auto rickshaw commuters in Pune and Pimpri Chinchwad will have to shell out a little more as the Regional Transport Authority (RTA) has agreed to a hike in auto fares. From July 1, the commuters will pay an additional amount of Re 1 for the first one and a half kilometer of travel. The existing fare is Rs 17.
The last auto fare hike was in October 2013.The fare per kilometer beyond one and a half kilometres has also been revised from Rs 11.65 to Rs 12.31. However, no change has been made in the night fares.
RTA Secretary and the Regional Transport Officer Jitendra Patil said, “After a round of meetings, the RTA held a final meeting on May 28 to discuss the revision of fares. The committee then reached to a conclusion to revise fares after calculations were done as per the formula set by the transport department.” An RTA meeting was held in April this year to discuss the suggestions and objections on the issue.
The auto rickshaw drivers are expected to recalibrate meters as per new fares and get the RTO’s seal on it within 45 days starting July 1. Ashok Shingdale, a rickshaw driver said, “We are very happy with the decision as the fare hike only comes after two years for us. The sad part is that the rise is not satisfactory and does not profit us much as the recalibration of the meter itself requires 500 rupees to be given out at a time.”
There are about 45,000 auto rickshaws in the city of which over 65% run on compressed natural gas (CNG). Nitin Pawar, convener of the Rickshaw Panchayat organization in the city said, “People have a misconception that the auto rickshaw drivers rake up a lot of money. In fact, the price we pay for CNG in the city is a lot higher and such a small rise in the auto fares does not justify our demand. Something is better than nothing, we believe.”
A hike in the auto fares was expected in May when the decision was taken to wait for the formation of a new committee which would replace the one-man PMA Hakim committee responsible for the recent fare hikes. However, the Government of Maharashtra continued to abide by the latter’s recommendation to increase the auto fares.
Meter-run taxis and cool cabs also saw a revision in the fares beginning July 1.
Catching the sun as it dangles from a brown pocket, a metal badge proclaims the old man’s profession: “POONA 761456 CAB DRIVER”.
At 70, Dattaraya Champalal Kalaskar is older than many parts of the city he’s served over four decades ‘on hire.’
Gold-rimmed spectacles offset a face traced by wrinkles of time and travail. Stray hairs spring unchallenged from either ear. His mustache and chin stubble carry a white hue. An honest-to-goodness smile conveys good will past broken teeth.
“The profession adopted me and I am married to it”, says the rickshaw driver, interviewed one summer day.
Chucking, Kalaskar fondly pats his auto, pointing toward words on its front, ‘Bhairavnath prasanna’ (May Lord Shiva be praised), a prayer for the daily journey he and other drivers travel making ends meet, providence delivered through customers.
Kalaskar gave up his slate and chalk at the age of 10 when his father passed away, leaving him to fend for his family. He worked in garages, carpet factories and the beedi industry before settling down as a weaver at Raja Bazaar Mill. He kept at it for a decade till exploitation reared its head and he found himself unpaid, yet compelled to put in extra hours.
Not long afterward, Kalaskar acquired a license, rented an auto rickshaw and began driving for a living.
With time, the boy in Kalaskar became the man of a family: husband to Lakshmi, father to Sandeep, Rohini, Manisha and Truptha, grandfather to seven tiny tots. All his children were educated up till college, he said, and Sandeep is a software engineer. “Me, class five pass, my children college pass,” the driver adds, satisfaction lighting his shriveling face.
Old age brings a deluge of woes. His failing eyesight bothers him and Kalaskar is wary of young passengers who yell at him to drive faster. The job carries no pension. Though he belongs to a union, the body does nothing, he says, for the welfare of senior auto drivers.
His 12-hour stints on the road begin at 8 a.m. When the gods are on his side and customers don’t haggle, Kalaskar said he earns 300-400 rupees on an average day. Lately, he’s fortunate to save 100 rupees per day, thanks to the switch to Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) from petrol. Like many drivers, Kalaskar often spends three hours in the queue refueling.
The road comes with its share of pitfalls and potholes.
Even at his age, dowry pressures threaten the calm of his home. “My daughters often come home to stay but the real reason for their arrival is because their husbands expect money when their wives return. I cannot say no, because as a father, my daughters’ happiness is my responsibility. But there is no end to greed.”
His biggest regret? The theft of his last auto. Repeated complaints at the Kothrud Police Station failed to bring justice. Kalaskar says he borrowed Rs.90, 000 for this one.
It is only to eat three meals a day that Kalaskar still drives at his age.
As he carefully wraps the bank challan in polythene, Kalaskar is greeted by two young drivers. Pointing to the youngsters, Kalaskar worries aloud about the growing number of youth joining the profession. They deserve good returns for their labors, he opines, voicing a sentiment echoed by many others.
With that, I put away my pen and notebook. Kalaskar invites me to share the two rotis packed from home. And as I took a bite, all I could do was say a prayer for this man who counts being able to share meals with a stranger among his blessings.