Autos slip off roads, unions deny strike

NEW DELHI: Less than a fortnight after the city autorickshaws returned from a 18-day long strike, they vanished from Delhi’s roads again onWednesday. Though autorickshaw unions claimed that no one had called for a strike and the auto drivers had individually decided not to ply, it clearly appeared to be a well-organised tactic. This has come a day after the city transport department tied up with the Delhi Traffic Police to impound autos that plied without functional meters.

The decision to launch a joint drive was announced after the city transport minister Ajay Maken, along with his commissioner Sindhushree Khullar held a meeting with joint commissioner of police (traffic) Maxwell Pereira on Monday. Delhi state transport minister Ajay Maken said on Wednesday: ‘‘The auto drivers are trying to blackmail us by staying off the roads.

We will not give in so easily. We want them to be disciplined once and for all.’’ ‘‘We have made provisions for them to get their non-functional meters repaired. In fact, some retailers have told me that quite a few autos have submitted their meters for repairs, taken new temporary service meters and absconded,’’ he added. He said the fare hike that the auto unions have been demanding for many months could be considered, but only after the autos used meters and stopped fleecing customers.

All Delhi Auto and Taxi Union Front chief R Tuli said: ‘‘The government is being very harsh with us. The drivers feel it is better to sit at home
than ply and have their vehicles impounded.’’ ‘‘We have done whatever the government asked us to do. Our autos have working meters and drivers ply by them. Some meters malfunction and it is not easy to get these repaired,’’ he said. Delhi Autorickshaw Sangh president G Buddhiraja said: ‘‘No registered union has called for a strike. But some unidentified persons distributed pamphlets to auto drivers on Tuesday that read a strike had been called.’’

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