Strike takes autos, taxis off city roads; commuters badly affected

DTC runs 200 extra buses; rush at New Delhi, Chandni Chowk Metro stations

Commuters in the city had a hard time on Tuesday with a majority of autorickshaws and taxis remaining off the road, as part of the all India strike called by central trade unions.

Metro trains operated as usual and by invoking the Essential Service Maintenance Act, officials made sure Delhi Transport Service buses too ran. But there was no respite for many travellers – like those arriving at Delhi's railway stations, hoping to catch an auto or a taxi home.

Autorickshaw and taxi union leaders in Delhi claimed that their strike was near total. 

“Almost 95 per cent of the total autos and taxis are off the road. The few autos operating are those which are tendering emergency services, like taking somebody to hospital. Members of the associations have been given the liberty to cater to people in genuine cases,” said Rajendra Soni, president of Bharatiya Private Transport Mazdoor Mahasangh.

Commuters across the capital – daily passengers, patients and attendants outside major hospitals and rail passengers outside stations -- complained of unavailability of autos and taxis. However, taxi services at the airport remained normal.

“After waiting for around an hour for a taxi, finally I have called my relatives from Lajpat Nagar to drop us at Sushant Lok in Gurgaon. Even the Meru cab is not available. I don’t find any merit in such strike. At the end of the day, its the public who is at the receiving end,” said Devendra Singh, an NRI based in Indonesia who had got the Kanpur Shatabdi Express with his wife.

An operator at the counter of private radio taxi service, Meru, said despite several passengers demanding service, he was not issuing number slips as the cabs were not getting to the station.

“Some of our drivers have complained that they are being threatened by protesters,” he said. Metro stations like New Delhi and Chandni Chowk witnessed heavy rush as railway passengers were forced to board Metro trains to reach their destinations.

Similarly, an attendant of an aged women complained about lack of autos and taxis outside AIIMS. “We are staying at my cousin's place in Munirka. No auto or taxi is available. I cannot even use the Metro as Munirka is not on its map,” said Ramesh, resident of Bihar who is in the town for treatment of his mother.

On any given day, there are scores of autorickshaw and taxis lined outside AIIMS. Auto drivers justified the strike. “We are sorry for the inconvenience caused to the commuters, but we had no other option. Delhi government has failed to fulfill our demands since long,” said Rakesh Sood, an auto driver. 

Several commuters also complained of harassment at the hands of auto drivers. “I had no choice but to pay Rs 100 instead of usual Rs 40 to reach Malviya Nagar Metro station from Seikh Sarai as I had to reach office on time,” said Rashmi, who works in Connaught place.By the evening, however, the number of autorickshaws on the roads started increasing.Invoking ESMA, DTC officials made sure that the bus service did not get affected. Officials said all DTC depot managers were asked to come to work by 6 am.

“We pressed into service around 200 more buses than on usual days to avoid inconvenience to commuters. While a total of 5,143 buses operated on Monday, 5,311 buses were rolled out on the roads today,” said a DTC spokesman. 

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