New Delhi: The opening day of the 48 hour- country-wide strike called by central trade unions evoked a mixed response in the city as banks were closed and large number of auto-rickshaws and taxis stayed off the roads while shops remained open throughout the day.
School children and office-goers suffered the most as most auto-rickshaw and taxi drivers either refused or overcharged them. Passengers at major railway stations and bus stands were stranded for hours and forced to shell out more fares to reach their destinations. Radio taxis, however, were on the roads.
The Delhi Metro saw heavy passenger rush during the peak hours in the morning and evening. Though state-run Delhi Transport Corporation buses were on the roads, it did not provide much relief to people as autorickshaws went off the roads.
"I had to pay Rs 180 for a autorickshaw ride from Moti Bag to Central Secretariat. The fare for the stretch in a normal day is around Rs 80," said Ajeet Singh, a government official.
Five major auto-rickshaw and taxi unions have joined the strike to demand a hike in auto and taxi fares.
The Delhi government, however, claimed that the strike did not have any impact on the transport sector. Transport Minister Ramakant Goswami said commuters did not face any inconvenience as enough buses were pressed into service.
A total of 5,117 DTC buses were deployed today against an average of about 5,000 buses, he said. Another 3,094 private buses including 1,870 mini buses, 283 Metro feeder buses and around 800 contract carriage buses were also pressed into service.
"In total, around 8,000 buses were on the roads to ferry passengers," Goswami said.
To tackle the strike, the city government had cancelled leave of all DTC employees and asked senior officials of the corporation to be at bus depots from early morning to ensure smooth functioning of the DTC bus service.
The government put "all sorts" of pressure so that they do not go on strike, a section of the DTC employees claimed.
Though police said no violence was reported during the strike, a minor clash erupted in New Delhi Railway stations between two trade union members and police intervened to disperse them.