Bangalore: Autorickshaws went off the roads in the City on Monday to bring pressure on the State government to reduce taxes on auto liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).
The 24-hour strike call was given by the United Struggle Committee of various Autorickshaw Drivers’ Unions in Bangalore in the wake of the recent hike in auto LPG prices from Rs. 54.40 to Rs. 65.53 a litre.
While roads around Majestic were bereft of their uncharacteristic bumper-to-bumper traffic at peak traffic hour on Monday morning, it was chaos outside the City Railway Station where passengers were found haggling with the taxi drivers, and a few autorickshaw drivers, for a fair price.
Unlike other bandhs, most passengers coming in did not appear to be aware of the auto strike, making things worse for them. Sumana Bhatt, a school teacher who was hoping to make it to work at 9.30 a.m., said that her husband had to take leave to pick her up. For a ride to Kengeri the taxis were asking for over Rs. 1,000, she complained. Another commuter, who had arrived at 8 a.m. from Kolkata, said that he had waited for some time, but now planned to walk to the nearby bus terminus to take a bus home.
Several passengers were seen walking with luggage, and some with porter in tow, to the city bus stand to board a bus to their destinations.
When asked, Vijay P, a taxi driver, claimed that it is “an equal risk” for them to drive as sections of autorickshaw drivers may target them for diluting the effect of the strike. “It is a risk for us also,” he said. Some taxis were also acting as shuttle between the bus stop and the railway station.
Autos were off the roads in most localities of the City including Banashankari, Padmanabhanagar, Kumaraswamy layout, and Frazer Town.
Also, traffic congestion during morning peak hours showed a marked decline on roads in the City due to virtual absence of autos.
However, roads outside schools appeared flooded with two-wheelers and cars as parents came to drop children to schools. Autos ferrying children to schools also stayed off the roads. N. Murthy, an autodriver, who drops six children to school, said that he had struck work on Monday and had informed the parents to make alternative arrangements.
Meanwhile, protests by groups of auto drivers were seen at Majestic bus stand, Freedom Park and at Basaveshwarnagar.
In Basaveshwarnagar, the protesting auto drivers stopped autos that were plying and urged to drivers to extend their cooperation for the strike.
With inputs from – Deepa Kurup, Vinayashree, Tanu Kulkarni and K. Gopinanthan