Two drivers hospitalised; service temporarily suspended

Two vehicles of Makkal Auto, a call auto service introduced only last week in the city, were attacked on Monday and its drivers were hospitalised. This led to the service being suspended temporarily in the interest of passenger safety, the operator said.

Makkal Auto operated with Rs.14 as minimum fare for the first two km and Rs.6 for every additional kilometre – a fare that was fixed by the State Government in 2007 and rejected by the autorickshaw drivers’ unions in the city.

According to the police, the attacks took place near the Coimbatore Railway Junction and at Ganapathy. The injured members were Vivek Dayal (30) and Pugazhendhi (30), both of whom have been admitted to the Coimbatore Medical College Hospital.

T. Selvaraj, Managing Director of Makkal Auto, blamed the attacks on groups opposed to such low fares, but said this would not deter the operation of the service in the long run.

“Makkal Auto will continue as it has the support of the public. It will resume soon, possibly even by Tuesday, after consulting the district administration and the police. We are sure the police will nab the perpetrators of Monday’s attack.”

While refusing to name anyone or a group, he said the attack near the railway junction would certainly have been recorded on closed circuit television cameras. The assailants came in auto rickshaws at Ganapathy and their vehicle numbers were given to the police. The service would counter such attacks legally.

Makkal Auto was operating 50 autorickshaws now, Mr. Selvaraj said, adding that as many as 300 more were likely to join them. He also clarified that no association had asked them to stop operating.

The city police have registered cases under Sections 307 (attempt to murder), 147 (rioting), 341 (wrongful restraint) and 506 (i) (criminal intimidation) and Section 3 of the Tamil Nadu Public Property (Prevention of Damage) Act. Further investigations are on.

Collector petitioned

The Joint Action Committee of Coimbatore District Autorickshaw Workers’ Unions has urged the district administration to ban the Makkal Auto, accusing it of endangering the livelihood of 12,000 auto rickshaw drivers in the district.

In a petition submitted during the Collectorate grievance meeting on Monday, committee president P.K. Sukumaran said that the tariff offered by Makkal Auto was unviable.

The committee had been agitating for several months seeking the implementation of meter system. While the Government had fixed the tariffs at Chennai, it was yet to be extended to rest of the State, he added.

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