Mumbai: Auto rickshaw unions demand better relief package

A relief package of Rs 107 crore for auto rickshaw drivers is what the Maharashtra government had announced for the 15-day Break The Chain lockdown, which comes to a meagre Rs 1,500 per auto rickshaw permit holder. With the lockdown being extended till May 15, unions have demanded for a better relief package.

A government resolution on disbursing this Rs 1,500 amount as a part of the Break The Chain lockdown till April 30 is expected this week itself. And, there are around 7.15 lakh auto rickshaw permit holders in the state who are eligible. Sources said that, once the GR is in place, information on this relief package will be accommodated on the Transport Department’s website. “There will be a link within the website that auto drivers holding a valid permit should click. We will transfer the amount online to their bank account, which is linked with the Aadhar card number,” said a regional transport officer.

Auto rickshaw drivers will have to provide details, including their Aadhar card number, permit and badge number, personal information and vehicle registration number, amongst others, which will enable the wire transfer. “The number of permit holders is huge. It will take nothing less than 2 to 3 months for everyone to get this meagre sum, which will hardly bring any relief to these auto rickshaw permit holders and their families,” said Shashank Sharad Rao, Auto Rickshawmen's Union leader.

The auto rickshaw unions claim that there are many auto rickshaw permit holders whose Aadhar cards are not linked to their bank accounts. “Many of these permit holders hold accounts with cooperative banks or prefer taking loans from NBFCs. They need not necessarily hold accounts with nationalised banks. This is a grey area that the government needs to address,” said a trade union leader.

Moreover, with the lockdown extended for another 15 days, the unions have demanded a better relief package. “With the lockdown extended till May 15, we will demand another Rs 1,500 to be added to the package and then be disbursed,” said another auto rickshaw union leader Thampy Kurien.

The unions are also demanding that drivers, who are higher in numbers, be also provided the relief package. The drivers only hold badges and the permit holders usually ask these drivers to ride in shifts of two. In MMR itself, there are well over 2.5 lakh to 3 lakh drivers.

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