Saturday, January 12, 2008

A Black Friday for commuters

A Black Friday for commuters
The impact was near total for the dawn-to-dusk strike called by the Autorickshaw Drivers Union (ADU), seeking an immediate reduction of the hiked auto LPG price and hike in the minimum auto fare.

It was despair and anger for the citizens, as majority of the autorickshaws stayed off the roads on Friday.
The impact was near total for the dawn-to-dusk strike called by the Autorickshaw Drivers’ Union (ADU), seeking an immediate reduction of the hiked auto LPG price and hike in the minimum auto fare.
It was Black Friday for thousands of commuters as they struggled to reach their destinations. The elderly and the sick found it tougher and so did the tourists. Relatively traffic-free roads was the only silver-lining of the day.
For thousands of hapless commuters, it was a chaotic struggle to gain entry into the overcrowded buses. Central bus stand, Kempe Gowda bus stand and railway stations too were overcrowded. Rail passengers who arrived in Bangalore, were caught unawares by the strike. They stood clueless, luggage in tandem.
The ADU activists vented their anger through rallies, roads blocks and meetings. The biggest rally was the one that marched from Corporation Circle to Banappa Park where scores of autorickshaw drivers converged for a meeting. They submitted a memorandum to Bangalore City Special Deputy Commissioner Rame Gowda. He assured them that he would convene a meeting on January 14.
The auto drivers have demanded reduction of the hiked LPG price, increase in the minimum fare from Rs 12 to Rs 20 and the per-kilometre from Rs 6 to Rs 10, welfare board for auto drivers, extension of ESI, PF or Yeshaswini schemes, auto drivers’ colony, allotment of houses to drivers and provision of BEL cards.
For several auto drivers, it was a day to make quick bucks. Many drivers secretly operated in the interiors, outskirts and in and around hospitals as they found several ‘scapegoat’ passengers.
It was blessing in guise for motorists to discover the roads less congested. Noise and carbon levels were also down. At 6 pm, most autorickshaws were back on the roads. The peak hours had just begun.
BMTC to rescue
Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) pressed into service 300 additional buses, to its existing 4,000 plus daily schedules.
“Buses from the general shift were also pressed into service which continued till midnight,” said Dastagir Sheriff, chief traffic manager (Operations), BMTC. The state-run Corporation also increased its night service buses to 200 from the 100. With an average daily sales revenue of Rs 1.7 crore, its ticket and daily commuter pass sales also increased by 5 per cent.

I realised about the auto strike only when I reached Bangalore from Davangere today morning. I kept waiting for the auto for some time and then walked down to Kempe Gowda bus stand.

-Mary Stevens

My nephew is undergoing treatment at Panacea Hospital and I depend on auto to visit him. It costs me Rs 12 to reach the hospital from Kamalanagar, but today I had to shell Rs 50.

-Shanthamma, house wife, Kurubarahalli

It is a traumatic experience for me to reach my office on M G Road, on my bike every day. It takes nearly 40 minutes from my house on Magadi Road to reach my office, but today I took just 25 minutes as there were no autos.

-Kamal, employee in a private company

There are over 75,000 autorickshaws in Bangalore and 1.5 lakh drivers. The auto LPG price was increased twice last month by Rs 6.36. A litre of LPG costs Rs 42.38 including oil price. The government has not increased the metre fare, accordingly.

- B V Raghavendra,
ADA general secretary

We submitted two memoranda to the DC on December 18 and January 1, respectively, but there was no response. This forced us to go on a day-long protest. We understand the difficulties of the travelling public.

- C N Srinivasa,
ADA organising secretary


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