Autorickshaw drivers, who have been operating from the stand around Tambaram railway station for about 30 years, protested against Southern Railway’s alleged discrimination in allotting parking slots for autos and call taxis.
More than 50 auto drivers assembled near the main entrance of the station, alleging that the administration was extending undue favouritism to a private call taxi operator, which had recently bagged a contract to operate from Tambaram.
The drivers said they were now forced to park their vehicle at the furthermost corner of the station, which would not only affect them, but also inconvenience commuters, especially those arriving on long-distance trains. Commuters would have to cough up more for taxis if they could not find an auto, the drivers said.
“The auto drivers have been paying parking charges to Southern Railway for 30 years, starting from Rs. 100 a year and now to Rs. 3,600 per auto, per year. We have neither encroached upon public space nor are our autos operated illegally,” said Subramonia Pillai, State secretary of Hind Mazdoor Sabha.
He said there were about 75 drivers who paid parking fees to Southern Railway, but as soon as the administration sanctioned the operation of call taxis, the autos were given step-motherly treatment.
Southern Railway sources said the call taxi operator had a paid a huge sum as a user fee to operate his vehicles for one year. They were not forcing the autorickshaws out of the railway station, but had allotted a designated parking lot for them to regulate flow of vehicles at the station. They dismissed allegations that they were biased in a favour of the call taxis.