Caught in the tussle of politicos
There couldn’t be a more clear-cut case of political high-handedness and
insensitivity. Recently, the Delhi government came out with an order saying auto rickshaws in the city cannot carry any advertisements on them. Apparently, the Delhi Motor Vehicles Rules (DMVR), which supports this order, came into force not this month but year 1993.
Auto rickshaw drivers are complaining that the government has suddenly woken up to this 20-year old rule miffed with their support for Arvind Kejriwal and for carrying posters of his Aam Aadmi Party on their vehicles.
But even apolitical autowallahs are asking: “What was so wrong about putting up small ads on our vehicles and supplementing our meagre daily earning?”
Sitaram Mehto, who has been driving an auto in Delhi for 25 years now, says, “Sarkar humse zyati dushmani nikaal rahi hai. Earlier this year, we had the biggest rally of auto rickshawwallahs in Delhi at Ramlila Maidan and Kejriwal came as the chief guest.
He heard all our problems patiently and assured us help. Since then, we have been carrying his party’s posters on our autos.”
“Now, taking the cover of this old rule, which was never implemented in the past 20 years, the government is issuing us challans for carrying AAP’s posters.”
Another auto driver Ram Naresh adds, “I was earning Rs 200-300 extra thanks to these small commercial ads. I wonder what struck the government to ban them. All this while, we have been at the receiving end of corrupt officials. They have done nothing for our welfare but always projected us as the villains, and now they are taking away even this small source of income.”
Rakesh Aggarwal of an NGO, which assisted four autowallahs to file a petition in the High Court yesterday, informs Metrolife, “These are exactly the same grounds on which we have challenged the Delhi government. Firstly, enabling Rule number 71 of DMVR is itself unjustified. It is against the right to freedom of speech and livelihood as well as discriminatory. Delhi’s Radio Taxis and Economy Radio Taxis have special permissions to display ads. Why target autos only?
“What is most surprising is that till some time back, Delhi government was providing us ads. Autos have carried posters of the Anti-Tobacco Cell and the Delhi State AIDS Control Society. And today, they are the ones calling this illegal.”
For a change, this time, even Delhiites are fully in support of the city’s autowallahs. Wg Cdr JS Chadda of URJA – Delhi’s largest confederation of RWAs - says, “This act cannot be justified legally or morally. Authorities have a habit of monopolising sources of income by sharing revenue from ads on private property or banning them. But they should spare the poor at least.
“Autowallahs are anyways always complaining about losses. Now they will be upset further and overcharge.
Conversely, if this system of ads could be institutionalised and they could be given a fixed sum every month, probably even the fare could be brought down. What can you advise a government which cannot look beyond its own political dividends?”