App-based cabs make a killing as autos stop plying

Mumbai: The eastern and the western suburbs were in big trouble on Wednesday morning with about 100,000 auto rickshaws going off the streets to protest against cab aggregators such as Uber and Ola.

Though life did not come to a grinding halt, students faced difficulty in reaching their respective schools and colleges, the working had a hard time sneaking into buses packed to capacity, and the few who could afford cabs paid through their nose to commute from point to point. Ironically, the ones to make a killing by fleeing the hapless public were the Kali Peeli taxi and the cab aggregators Uber and Ola.

The public was livid but helpless. Take Laxman Kalra, who travels to Chembur from Badlapur daily.

“When I and my colleagues got off at Kurla to reach our college in Chembur there was no auto and the Kaali Peeli taxis demanded Rs 30 per seat to drop us. Otherwise the usual fare from Kurla to Chembur is not more Says Chirag Khushani of South Mumbai, “The kaali-peeli taxis were charging fares over and above the normal meter charge. I had to reach the High Court from CST station for which the normal fare is around Rs 30; but I had to cough up Rs 45 as the cab driver said it was only during the strike that they can make extra money.”

Watch Auto strike video here

The leader of the biggest auto union of Mumbai — Shashank Rao — said, “The strike was for demanding stringent norms and regulations against cab aggregators. The government has failed to implement the ‘City Taxi Scheme’ which was introduced last year; hence we decided to observe a day long strike.”

Many motorists were seen tweeting and announcing their status on social networking sites, expressing happiness as the roads were clear with no bumper-to-bumper traffic.

 A car owner, Sameer Karnuk, said, “I was driving from Vikhroli to Mulund and there was no traffic on the streets; but the auto unions should understand that by going on strike they are giving the aggregate taxi drivers a chance to make undue profits.’’

As is often the case, BEST rose to the occasion by plying additional buses. BEST spokesperson Hanumant Gophane said, “We had deployed 123 additional buses all over the city to make life easier for the citizens.” The Mumbai police was also seen fidgeting on its toes with security beefed up at important junctions.

In areas like CST, Santacruz, Bandra, Chembur and Ghatkopar, there were hardly any auto-rickshaws plying on the streets. But many motorists were seen helping the stranded citizens to reach their destinations.

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