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Autos warn of fare strike

Bhubaneswar, Nov. 14: Autorickshaw operators of the city have threatened to go on strike during the Assembly’s winter session, which begins on November 27, to demand, among other things, revision of fares.

The Bhubaneswar Autorickshaw Mahasangha, an association of the operators, has alleged that despite their frequent protests to revise fares, the government has done nothing.

“It has been more than four years since the government revised auto fares. During this period, prices of diesel and petrol have gone up several times. The state government is not paying any heed to our proposal of constituting a technical committee,” said general secretary of the association Padman Kumar Samal.

He also said that if the government did not intervene in the next 15 days, they would be forced to go on strike during the Assembly session.

Sources in the state commerce and transport department said the autorickshaw fare structure was introduced in June 2008. At that time, the fare was Rs 6 for first one kilometre and Rs 3.10 had been set as the fare for subsequent kilometres.

Similarly, the fare structure for point to point travel had been set taking the railway station as the point of origin.

The association also alleged that though they wanted pre-paid services in the city, the government was sitting on the proposal. “Most of the cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Nagpur have an official tariff rate for autorickshaws, but we do not have any fare structure, which is a major impediment in implementation of pre-paid auto services in the city,” said Samal.

On October 16, the association called for a dawn-to-dusk strike demanding fare revision, creating inconvenience for nearly 1,00,000 commuters. At present, more than 17,000 autorickshaws ply in the city.

The association also alleged that police atrocity against the operators had increased. “There have been no designated parking lots for the autorickshaws, but the police often collect unjustified penalty,” said another member of the association.

Without a proper fare structure, the commuters also end up in arguing with the operators. “Just like the bus fares, the government must implement the auto fares, so that passengers do not have to argue over fares,” said Ratikant Bihara, an engineering student.