The auto-rickshaw lobby has threatened to slam the brakes on state transport minister Subhas Chakraborty’s reform run 2003.
Voices of protest rose loud and clear from members of the CPM-affiliated Auto-Rickshaw Operators’ Union on Sunday, even as Chakraborty announced measures to rein in ‘rogue’ three-wheelers and crack the whip on traffic-rule flouters.
At a meet called by the Citu unit in Jadavpur’s Kishor Bharati Stadium, Chakraborty the minister, rather than Chakraborty the Citu and CPM leader, showed up. And he lost no time in getting down to business.
Murmurs of protest greeted Chakraborty’s decree that each auto-rickshaw limit the number of passengers to four from the first day of the New Year and every driver be armed with “original documents”.
The murmurs turned into a groundswell of protest as soon as the transport minister announced that the auto driver and the fifth passenger would be penalised if the road rules were flouted.
Despite the presence of local strongman and minister of state for Sunderbans development Kanti Ganguly and former MLA Sujan Chakraborty, the auto drivers could not be stopped from voicing their disapproval. First, it was a silent show of defiance when they refused to stand up despite being urged to do so in order to express their support for the transport minister.
When it came to the question of carrying and producing “valid documents”, many of the auto drivers stood up and tried to shout down the transport minister. They urged him to “first do something about the corrupt Regional Transport Authority (RTA) officials” and only then turn the heat on auto drivers. Subhas Chakraborty, however, managed to restore order by promising that any RTA official with specific complaints against him “would be thrown out of office”.