Mumbai office-goers suffer as 100,000 auto rickshaws go off road
Hundreds of thousands of office-goers here suffered on Monday as about 100,000 auto rickshaws went on a daylong strike, protesting against the growing popularity of cab aggregators such as Ola and Uber.
Rickshaw drivers affiliated to the powerful Aurockshaw and Taximen's union, joined the strike, inconveniencing office-goers and other commuters.
The city's auto rickshaw and taxi unions are worried that the growing popularity of app-based aggregators will destroy their trade.
Many of Mumbai's auto rickshaw and taxi drivers are temperamental and often refuse fares, especially near railway stations and busy commercial hubs such as the Bandra-Kurla Complex.
On Monday, desperate commuters could be seen trudging long distances, or hopping on to overcrowded BEST buses all over the metropolis, both during the morning and evening peak hours.
Companies like US-based Uber and Indian major Ola have become extremely popular in the metropolis, affecting the business of traditional auto rickshaws and black-and-yellow cabs.
The state transport authority has also permitted private vehicles to operate as public transport vehicles, which would see a spurt in the number of taxis affiliated to the aggregators. In many cities, Ola has also tied up with auto rickshaws. In Pune, for instance, where auto rickshaw drivers hold the public to ransom with their arbitrariness, Ola has signed in hundreds of rickshaws who have no problems in taking passengers to their destination. Many auto rickshaw and taxi drivers are also enrolling with Uber and Ola, where their earnings are quite high.
This has worried the union bosses, who fear that their hold over the transporters might loosen. Another reason for Monday's strike was the sharp hike in the cost of auto and taxi permits, which has gone up from Rs200 to Rs15,200.
Several political parties compete to control the auto rickshaw and taxi unions. Traditionally, Sharad Rao, an independent politician - who later joined hands with the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) - dominated the unions.
Later, the Shiv Sena and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena also tried to establish their unions. Congress leader Narayan Rane's son also set up his own union.
However, cab aggregators such as Ola and Uber have been able to lure thousands of drivers by paying them hefty incentives and offering decent services to commuters.
Radio taxi operators such as Meru and Tabcab have also been snatched business from the traditional taxis in Mumbai.