(IANS) Around one lakh auto-rickshaw and taxi drivers launched an indefinite strike here on Tuesday against the increasingly popular app-based taxi services, causing hardship to tens of thousands of commuters.
An estimated 90,000 auto-rickshaws and 15,000 traditional yellow top taxis ply in Delhi, and union leaders said almost all of them had joined the crippling protest.
Only a few auto-rickshaws plied, but mostly within residential areas. The yellow top taxis remained off the roads.
The Delhi government refused to talk to the strikers until the protest was withdrawn.
“This is unacceptable,” Transport Minister Satyendra Jain said. “They can’t just go on strike like this. Today they are ranged against app-based cabs, tomorrow they will protest against e-rickshaws.”
And pointing fingers at the BJP, Jain, a confidant of Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, said the Delhi government was aware who were inciting the auto-rickshaw drivers.
The situation is likely to worsen as the Joint Action Committee of Auto and Taxi Unions (JACATU) has vowed to go on hunger strike from Wednesday if the Delhi government didn’t meet their demand.
“This time we will show the government our power. We want the government to fix the rates of these app-based taxi services,” JACATU President Rajendra Soni told IANS.
The steadily increasing number of app-based taxis, particularly from Ola and Uber, have captured a lot of business that was until recently with the auto-rickshaws and the yellow top taxis. The strikers resent this.
“Earlier we used to earn Rs 1,500-Rs 2,000 a day. But since these taxis have come in, we make only Rs 300-Rs 500. Who can be blamed for this but the app-based taxis?” asked Soni.
Even before the app-based services were introduced, auto-rickshaws had lost a chunk of business to Delhi Metro.
Sanjay Chawla, president of another auto-rickshaw union, said the Delhi government must fix rates for the app-based taxi services “so that they do not harm our business.
“As of now, these cabs advertise their rates at Rs 6-7 per km but charge Rs 14-15. By doing this, they woo our customers and hurt our business,” he said.
The strike severely affected hundreds of thousands of commuters who use auto-rickshaws daily to travel. Most opted for Delhi Metro or buses, which were overcrowded on Tuesday.
The worst hit were those reaching the capital by train, with auto-rickshaw and taxi drivers at railway stations staging noisy protests.
The Delhi government said it had deployed 300 buses to ferry people from railway stations but it was clearly not enough.
Delhi’s Joint Commissioner of Police (Traffic) Garima Bhatnagar said there was a heavy footfall in buses and Metro due to the strike. She said no case of violence had been reported.
But residents reported stray incidents of attacks on auto-rickshaws which defied the strike to ply. In most cases, however, the strikers stopped the few auto-rickshaws that were plying and ordered the passengers out.
Sandeep Roshan, who is with a law firm, said he opted for Metro because he feared Ola and Uber would charge more due to high demand.
Triveni Sood, a PR executive, too preferred Metro to travel from Sultanpur from Munirka. Normally, she takes an auto.
Delhi Metro said no extra crowd was noticed in the trains. “We keep monitoring the rush. If there is extra rush, we will increase the frequency of trains,” a Metro official told IANS