In the wake of the impending strike called by the taxi and auto unions, Transport Commissioner Pravin Gedam called an emergency meeting with stakeholders on Sunday afternoon in a bid to avert the strike and avoid inconveniencing Mumbaikars.
Who has called for the strike?
Two unions, Jai Bhagavan Mahasangh and Swabhiman Taxi and Rickshaw Sanghatana, have threatened an indefinite taxi strike from Monday.
Mumbai Auto Rickshaw and Taximen’s Union has called for a strike from August 31 (Wednesday). In addition, BEST Kamgar Sena, a Shiv Sena-affiliated union of BEST employees has also threatened to participate in the strike after Ganeshotsav.
A L Quadros, the leader of the biggest taxi union – Mumbai Taximen Union, however, confirmed that they will not be participating in the strike. Meanwhile, the union is also fighting for the regularisation of aggregators via a legal route. It has already filed a petition with the High Court and its next hearing is scheduled in the first week of September.
A few other unions, including Shiv Sena-affiliated taxi union Mumbai Taxi Chalak Malak Sena, have also said that their taxis and autos will continue to ply on Monday.
Why have they called for a strike?
In a nutshell, because of the state government’s failure to regulate app-based taxi aggregators like Ola and Uber.
The state government has prepared the City Taxi Scheme 2015 for regulating app-based taxis, but is yet to bring it into effect. If passed, the scheme will limit their numbers and put an end to their lucrative ‘surge pricing’ policy.
The unions are especially opposed to the surge pricing which allows aggregators to charge more money during peak hours, something regular taxis are not allowed to do.
Final outcome of the meeting
Unfortunately for Mumbaikars, the meeting with the Transport Commissioner Pravin Gedam did not yield any result.
As a result, taxis affiliated with both Jai Bhagavan Mahasangh and Swabhiman Taxi and Rickshaw Sanghatana will be going on strike from midnight today.
Tanuj Verma, an I.T professional who takes an auto from Goregaon station to reach office everyday, said “I am getting used to these strikes now. Over the last few weeks, because rickshaw drivers have been ‘unreliable’ at best, I have started taking a bus to work at times. Sometimes it takes a bit more time, but I get sooner than I get a rickshaw and I spend way less. I for one won’t have an issue with the strike.”
Sayali Sawant, a mass-media major, said, “I think by calling these strikes on a regular basis taxi and auto unions are making us immune to them. I hardly ever take a taxi because it’s pointless to ask multiple drivers, go uncomfortably and then fight over change. And it’s not even like I end up paying more with Uber or Ola. In most cases, they turn out to be cheaper as well. From what I know, most people won’t be affected by these strikes.”
While the strike is bound to inconvenience many, the effectiveness of taxi and auto strikes is surely reducing with each attempt. Sawant isn’t the only one who thinks people are now getting immune to these strikes, many more share the same sentiment.
So, yes Mumbaikars will suffer because of the strike. But, not the way they used to. They are better prepared for tomorrow. They have alternatives like trains, BEST, metro, and ride sharing. Most importantly, they also have the ability to opt for the services of the very companies against whom the unions have called the strike.
Out of the 1.5 lakh taxis and autos that ply on Mumbai’s roads, a few thousand may not ply from tomorrow. But, fret not. It takes a lot more than that to bring the city to a standstill.
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