Staff Reporter

Autorickshaw drivers had a field day during hartal

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Passengers relying on Kerala State Road Transport Corporation buses and those forced to depend on autorickshaws for transportation had a harrowing time on Thursday. Most of the buses chose to keep off the road enabling some autorickshaw drivers to rake in some quick buck.

Though the hartal called by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad evoked only partial response in the city with a number of private vehicles, mostly two-wheelers taking the road, office-goers who depended solely on public transport services, were affected.

Jayaraj M., a mechanist at the KSTRC workshop in Pappanamcode, had a taste of his organisation’s own medicine when he was stranded at the Thampanoor bus stand for more than an hour unable to catch a bus to his office.

A resident of Nedumangad, Mr. Jayaraj had reached Thampanoor by hitch-hiking on a two-wheeler. However, devoid of a similar luck with two-wheeler riders here, he finally decided to engage an autorickshaw. “They wanted me pay Rs.50 even for a distance of one kilometre. I did not have an option,” said Mr. Jayaraj.

The autorickshaw drivers on their part exploited the innate fear of passengers by hinting at possible violence by the hartal supporters on the way as means to extract some extra moolah. “Will you pay if someone breaks the windshield of the vehicle?” fumed a driver who refused to give his name.

With the KSRTC suspending most of its long distance services till the hartal deadline in the evening, a few who reached the Thampanoor bus stand in the morning had to return disappointed.

Normal train service

Train services, however, remained unaffected with trains operating on time and with the “usual crowd of passengers” according to the officials of the Information Counter located inside the station.

Going by the words of Elango R., manager of a vegetarian restaurant tucked inside the station, the hartal evoked “very little” support from the public. “Usually during hartals we are forced to close the doors of our restaurant to control the rush of customers who stream in by hundreds, as most of the shops and restaurants outside will be closed. However, this time around it was usual business,” he says.