Mumbai commuters stranded as autos stay off road again

Auto-rickshaw unions, controlled by disgruntled -- and often rejected -- politicians, have been holding commuters to ransom for quite some time.


Nithin Belle

Published: Thu 18 Jun 2015, 10:46 PM

Last updated: Wed 8 Jul 2015, 2:58 PM

Mumbai: It was yet another harrowing day for hundreds of thousands of commuters in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, as auto-rickshaw drivers went on a strike, the second time in two days.

Braving heavy rains, thousands of commuters had to walk long distances to reach railway stations and their offices during the morning peak hours, and in the reverse direction in the evening.

Auto-rickshaw unions, controlled by disgruntled — and often rejected — politicians, have been holding commuters to ransom for quite some time. This time the unions are demanding a ban on taxi aggregators such as Uber and Ola and radio taxis, which are eating into their revenues. Long queues were witnessed at bus stops, as nearly 75,000 autos went on a strike. Commuters could also be seen trying to hitch a ride from motorists and two-wheeler riders.

Mumbai’s auto-rickshaw operators are notorious for refusing to carry passengers to their destinations. Getting rickshaws at suburban railway stations and at busy commercial districts such as the Bandra-Kurla complex during the morning and evening peak hours is a frustrating experience.

Many commuters, however, now call for a cab on their apps and are ferried to their destination of choice without any problems. Similarly, with the efficient functioning of the first phase of the Mumbai Metro — between Versova and Ghatkopar — has also impacted the earnings of auto-rickshaws.

In the past, getting an auto-rickshaw at Andheri station or at Saki Naka was a tough task, as many drivers would extort more funds. But with the metro, rickshaws can be found idling away and willing to go anywhere.

With Uber, Ola, Meru and Tabcab, the new service providers, offering alternative services — which are faster — thousands of commuters are abandoning rickshaws, many of who are now feeling the pinch.

Though the government fixes the fares for auto-rickshaws and taxis, some demand a premium from passengers, especially on days when it rains heavily.

But even aggregators like Uber are exploiting the situation. The so-called ‘dynamic pricing’ structure — which is based on demand and supply — saw fares rise several-fold on Monday and Wednesday, when the regular autos were on strike.

Regular users of Uber said on Wednesday that they had to pay almost five times the fare. Many took to social media to lash out at the cab aggregator for exploiting the situation caused by the auto strike.

Increasingly, many Mumbai office-goers are opting for car-pooling. Thanks to social media, it is easier to link up with commuters travelling on the same route and at the same time daily.

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