Auto drivers forcibly stop autos ferrying passengers

New Delhi, Jul 28 (IANS): Thousands of autorickshaws returned to the roads on Thursday amid a continuing strike by some unions, but passengers complained that those still on strike forced them out of the plying autos.

Incidents of forcible stopping of autorickshaws were reported from several areas in the capital, making commuting difficult.

"I took an auto from Alaknanda for Okhla but a group of drivers stopped our auto and asked us to get off," Akansha, a working professional, told IANS.

The strikers also beat up the auto driver for not taking part in the strike, she added. Akansha was travelling with four others in the autorickshaw.

One of the strikers, who identified himself as Somesh Kumar, said the autorickshaw drivers were on strike since Tuesday that they would not let other autos on the roads.

Autorickshaws and yellow top taxi drivers went on an indefinite strike on Tuesday against the app-based cab aggregators. The Delhi government announced on Wednesday evening that 17 unions had decided to call off the strike. But clearly some unions were not a party to the agreement.

People had a harrowing time on Thursday after striking auto drivers halted traffic near Mahipalpur, on the road to the airport, in south Delhi. Some 200 drivers also protested in west Delhi's Rohini area.

Chetan Kumar, an auto driver leading the protest, said: "We have stopped about 25 autos and taxis of Ola and Uber here. We won't allow them to operate."

Rajani, a housewife in Saket in south Delhi, said she saw four or five autorickshaw drivers stop an autorickshaw that was playing and forcing its two women passengers to alight.

"This is ridiculous," she said. "How can they do this? If some auto drivers don't want to be part of the strike, why should they be forced to join the protest? And why are not the police doing anything?"

Many auto drivers said they did not want to be part of the strike but the police were doing nothing to stop the "hooliganism".

"I don't even understand the reason behind the strike," said one driver, Babu Lal. "How can we go on an indefinite strike? Who will earn for my family?"

The president of the Joint Action Committee of Auto and Taxi Unions (JACATU), Rajendra Soni, said drivers indulging in violence must be booked by police.

"They are not our people but from the AAP (Aam Aadmi Party). The government is doing this to fail our strike."

The Delhi government has alleged that the strike was covertly backed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Delhi is home to some 90,000 autorickshaws and 15,000 yellow top taxis. The autorickshaws, considered the poor man's taxi, are particularly critical to the capital's commuting needs.


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