Mumbai: It was a tough day for the commuters of Maharashtra as over 15 lakh autos across the state went off the roads on Monday in wake of the state-wide strike called by Sharad Rao, leader of Mumbai Autorickshawmen`s Union.
Students and office-goers found it difficult to travel to their destinations in time because of paucity of autos.
Though, to provide some relief to the strike-struck Maharashtrians, the BEST management had deployed extra buses. Some political parties also operated free drop facility for suburban commuters to prominent railway stations.
Also the auto-unions affiliated to MNS and Shiv Sena also boycotted the strike, providing 35,000 autos on the roads.
The Sharad Rao-led union had demanded the minimum fare to be hiked from Rs 11 to Rs 16 and Rs 7 to Rs 9 to be charged for every additional kilometer.
Additionally, the union also objected to the compulsory fitting of e-meters in autorickshaws and sought extra permits.
The autorickshawmen`s union had rejected the one-man committee of former bureaucrat PMA Hakim, set up to decide the fare hike formula.
The Autorickshaw Malak-Chalak Sanghatana Sanyukta Kriti Samiti, headed by Rao, said Hakeem had been detrimental to the autorickshawmen over the last 14 years.
The fare for auto-rickshaws and taxis was fixed using a single formula, drawn as per recommendations of the Hakim Committee in 1996.
The city`s transport authority recently increased fares for the first 1.6 kilometres by a rupee, effective from April 20. The Mumbai Autorickshawmen`s Union said the hike is not sufficient, in view of the overall price rise.
The union wants an increase of five rupees in the minimum fare, and a hike of two rupees for every additional kilometre.
Rao, who met deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar on the
issue of auto strike, told reporters that Pawar has assured him to hold a meeting to discuss demands of the automen, after the budget session of legislature.
Members of the union held a "peaceful demonstration" outside the office of the transport commissioner in Bandra, he said.
"The Sena and MNS tried hard to disrupt our strike but 15 lakh auto owners and drivers in the state observed the day-long strike peacefully," Rao said.
(With PTI inputs)