Vehicles caught in a jam near Plaza Chowk on East Jail Road, Ranchi, on Tuesday. Picture by Hardeep Singh
Auto drivers are up in arms against a one-way rule clamped for three-wheelers on a 2km stretch of Circular Road, vowing to go back to the old route from Friday since the new one isn’t profitable.
Although drivers of petrol-driven autos were the first to raise the protest pitch against what they called “an illogical” decision of the traffic department, diesel vehicles have now decided to join them.
Under the new norm, which came into effect around two months ago to decongest the Circular Road, autos coming from Birsa Chowk are diverted at Dangratoli Chowk and routed via Purulia Road and Mission Chowk. The three-wheelers ultimately reach East Jail Road, which meets Circular Road.
But auto chalaks claimed the new route was not viable, as there were too few passengers. Besides, the roads were narrow and snarls frequent. Moreover, it wasn’t benefiting commuters either.
Refusing to follow the one-way curb any more, a delegation of Chotanagpur Taxi Evam Tempo Chalak Sangh submitted a memorandum to the office of the police traffic superintendent on Tuesday, informing the authorities of their decision to start plying from Dangratoli Chowk to Women’s College Arts Block Chowk leading to Kutchery Chowk from January 10.
They threatened to forcefully prevent city buses from running on the now restricted route, if the administration tried to stop them.
“The new arrangement is not helping anyone — be it auto drivers or commuters. In fact common people are worst hit as there is no public transport available between Dangratoli Chowk and East Jail Road except buses that are few in number and are mostly overcrowded. Many people are forced to walk to catch an auto,” said Sakeel Akthar of the sangh.
He added that during a demonstration on the issue on January 3, the traffic police had assured them that the one-way rule would be scrapped by January 10 and petrol autos would be allowed to operate from Dangratoli Chowk to Women’s College Arts Block Chowk.
But that was yet to happen.
Diesel autos were also against the rule and their union has decided to stage a demonstration at the district headquarters on Wednesday.
“First, they (traffic police) told us that the one-way restriction would be in place only on a trial basis. But it seems to have become a permanent fixture. East Jail Road remains congested and we are frequently caught in jams,” said Arjun Yadav, vice-president of Jharkhand Diesel Auto Chalak Sangh.
Commuters also complained, stating that they were ending up paying more and wasting time because of the traffic curbs.
“I live at Dangratoli while my office is in Lalpur. Normally, a straight drive would have taken me only five minutes and Rs 5 to reach my office. But now, I have to cough up Rs 7 and reach office after 20 minutes. The auto does not drop me near my office. If you take a rickshaw ride, it will cost nothing less than Rs 20,” said Vinay Singh.
But the traffic department does not seem to be perturbed.
“No assurance about them being allowed to operate on the old route was given to auto drivers. If they are found violating guidelines, they will be fined and their road permits cancelled,” warned traffic DSP Rajendra Choudhary.
Asked why the same rules didn’t apply for city buses, Choudhary said: “It is because the new route is a bit congested. They (auto drivers) are very irresponsible and park their vehicles randomly, adding to the chaos.”
Around 1,500 petrol and 9,000 diesel autos ply within city limits. Of them, hundreds of petrol autos and around 2,000 diesel autos operate between Birsa Chowk and Kutchery Chowk.