Protesters at Randhir Verma Chowk in Dhanbad on Tuesday morning. Picture by Gautam Dey
The Dhanbad district administration on Tuesday agreed to review the recent 20 per cent hike in auto-rickshaw fares.
The administration was forced to take this decision following the fast-unto-death by former district president of Ajsu Ratilal Mahto, BJP town unit executive committee member (Dhanbad) Amit Singh and JVM worker Rakesh Kumar Pandey.
The trio had launched their protest at Randhir Verma Chowk from January 26, demanding immediate rollback of the fare hike.
A team led by Dhanbad circle officer Anurag Tiwari visited the protest site around 1pm after Mahto was heard complaining of abdominal pain.
Tiwari conveyed Dhanbad subdivisional officer (SDO) Abhishek Srivastava’s message that a meeting would be called in the first week of February where all stakeholders, including representatives of auto-rickshaw and passenger unions, would be present to discuss a possible rollback.
Following the administration’s assurance, the agitators ended their protest.
SDO Srivastava later told The Telegraph, “Leaders of different political parties will also be invited at the meeting that will be called once Dhanbad Mahotsav concludes on February 2.”
Srivastava added that Dhanbad deputy commissioner Prashant Kumar was personally looking into the matter and had instructed them to take into confidence all the stakeholders before taking a final decision on the issue.
Notably, coal town auto fares had gone up by 20 per cent from January 10, following a decision taken by the district transport committee, which is headed by none other than Srivastava himself.
Following the decision, the maximum fare on any route rose to Rs 58, while the minimum fare became Rs 5.
At present, a 45km-travel from Dhanbad to Chirkunda costs Rs 58 against the previous fare of Rs 48.
Similarly, Dhanbad to Sindri costs Rs 29 against the earlier Rs 24, and to Tundi Rs 36 which was previously Rs 30.
Commuters have been totally against the steep fare hike, citing a budget pinch coupled with poor passenger amenities.
“The hike is totally unjustified as passenger amenities on autos have not improved while the fares have been hiked exponentially. The auto fares in Dhanbad are perhaps the highest in the country,” Mahto said.
JVM worker Pandey explained why autos were inconvenient for those going to the railway station or bus stand.
“You can’t travel in any auto-rickshaws because there is no space for keeping luggage. The four-seaters have been converted to 10-seater autos by making passengers sit at the rear that is meant to be used to keep luggage. Yet, despite the cramped space, auto travel is so expensive,” Pandey added.
Several organisations have demanded a revision of the quantum of hike, which has forced Dhanbad administration to review its decision.
Sources said that though a complete rollback was not possible, fares could be slashed.