Nearly 1000 auto-rickshaw drivers protested outside the Mahanagar Gas Ltd (MGL) office in BKC on Tuesday over the skyrocketing compressed natural gas (CNG) prices. A letter regarding their grievances has been sent to the Centre by the MGL. If the letter is not sent within 10-15 days, it may lead to a larger agitation, protestors said.
Currently, CNG costs Rs 76 per kg. The protestors have demanded subsidised gas for auto-rickshaws and taxis. Union president Shashank Rao said, “We have asked MGL to subsidise the rate of CNG for auto-rickshaw drivers and taxi drivers because they are public utility vehicles. If the fares are high then it will not benefit the drivers as well as the passengers. If the meter rates are too high, the drivers will stop getting passengers.”
He added, “We have also mentioned to the MGL that Mumbai doesn’t have the option like other cities to choose the type of fuel for the vehicle, like petrol/diesel.”
Rao added that they have been forced to use CNG fuel instead of other fuels since 2004 and it becomes the responsibility of the MGL and the Maharashtra government to push for the reduction of CNG prices.
“They are saying that fuel prices are up to the Central government. So they can at least write to the the Centre regarding our request, but they have not even done that,” added Rao.
An auto-rickshaw driver at the protest site, Rajesh Patil said, “Today we have gathered here because the prices of CNG have increased thrice within the past one month, but nobody is talking about increasing the metre prices.”
“A hawker on the footpath earns more money than us, even though it is illegal. But we have our meter, vehicle, license, and everything registered and it is all legal source of income. Yet we are the ones who have to face such unjust decisions from the government, which has put a huge burden on our income,” added Patil.
The union was expecting a crowd of 500 protesters but it exceeded its expectations to almost double, which, according to them, depicted the amount of frustration and helplessness the drivers are feeling because of the hike.