Autorickshaws will be off the roads in the city on May 29 in response to a strike call given by the Federation of Coimbatore District Autorickshaw Workers' Unions (affiliated to the Centre of Indian Trade Unions) to protest against the increase in the price of petrol. With no meter fare in the city, the price rise is set to worsen fleecing of passengers.
“If this rise happens frequently, autorickshaws will disappear from the public transport scene,” president of the federation P.K. Sukumaran said on Thursday. The federation met during the day to discuss the fallout of the price rise and decided to call for the strike. “We are also considering the option of a State-wide strike that day,” he said.
Pointing out that people already shunned autorickshaws because of high fare, Mr. Sukumaran said every successive petrol price increase further alienated autorickshaws from the public.
“The State Government has to fix the minimum meter fare at Rs. 40 for the first 3 km and Rs.20 for every subsequent km,” he said.
A minimum of three litres of petrol was needed for an autorickshaw to enable its normal 20 km to 22 km trip every day. Along with the lubricant, the cost a litre now worked out to Rs.100.
After spending Rs. 300 on fuel and paying Rs. 150 as rent to the vehicle owner, the driver would be left with very meagre earnings, Mr. Sukumaran said, rebutting charges that the drivers actually made a killing in the name of price rise.
Except the fact that they can accommodate more passengers, the call taxis would not be an affordable alternative to the autorickshaws.
The operator of a prominent call taxi fleet said that till a couple of months ago, most of the taxis charged Rs. 35 for the first 2 km and Rs. 10 for every subsequent km.
Though most taxis ran on gas or diesel, the overall price and taxes situation forced them to increase the fare to Rs. 50 for the first 2 km and Rs. 12 for every subsequent km.
Mr. Sukumaran's lament over the petrol price rise contained a veiled, though predictable, message for the people of the city: brace yourselves, the fleecing is set to get worse in the name of petrol price increase.
Keywords: petrol price hike