Autorickshaw drivers have been on a strike the past 3-4 days now. As if this torrid heat wasn’t enough, commuters are faced with the harrowing prospect of a long wait in order to get some form of transport to reach their destination.

This strike was called to protest the cut in fares (Re.1) announced by the RTO due to a fall in prices of petrol and diesel. The RTO also rapped some of the rickshaw owners who had not yet converted their autos to CNG.

The hypocrisy is so obvious that it’s not funny. All across the country, each time there’s a fuel price hike, these buggers rush to increase prices arbitrarily at the stroke of midnight. This includes the petrol pump owners as well, who hoard their stocks, shut their pumps in the evening and then open for business at the revised prices. Why can’t they show the same enthusiasm to lower rates when fuel prices fall? 🙂

In Pune, a lot of people depend on autos for their daily commute as buses are not at all regular or reliable or simply don’t ply in some areas.  To that extent, people’s lives have definitely been thrown out of gear, the marginal increase in deployment of buses notwithstanding.

As far as autorickshaw drivers are concerned, they are in a class by themselves and I have little sympathy for them. Although some of them coule be safe drivers, the majority are mavericks, who drive like they own the road, without care or caution. They have a nasty habit of suddenly turning their vehicles left / right without any indication of doing so, leading to accidents due to this ‘bindass’ style of driving. They are also extremely rude, refuse to ply short distances or in certain areas and above all, either have tampered meters or meters that don’t work at all.

 The sad part is that for the time being, there is no other cheap option available that can give the autorickshaw a run for it’s money. PMT buses are affordable, but hardly quick and convenient enough and certainly not available at one’s beck and call. Another option: Call / Radio taxis, which are already a way of life in other cities. They exist in Pune too, but the cost is quite steep at the moment. However, a friend has been facing problems with them as the cabs don’t always report on time, throwing his entire schedule out of gear.

Some months ago, I recall there being a hue and cry over the number of two wheelers in Pune and even when the Nano was launched, about how there would be a plethora of personal vehicles on the road, causing traffic / parking problems, pollution etc etc. Several people opined that public transport was the way to go. Sounds nice, but what are people to do if public transport is not available due to a strike?

In 1997, these auto-wallahs went on a strike to protest plying of six-seaters within city limits. At the time, they lost the goodwill of people because of the reason as well as timing of the strike (peak school season), and they are likely to lose that goodwill now as well. 

In the current scenario, do we give in to their demands ? Do we also just grin and bear it each time someone else decides to go on a strike? I think not, and it’s time these auto-wallahs got a hard kick up the rear. I’m aware it will be inconvenient for those who depend on autos but I hope the authorities do not cave in.