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AAP runs into auto protest

New Delhi, Feb. 2: Auto-rickshaw drivers, who played a huge role as Aam Aadmi Party campaigners in the run-up to last year’s elections, will sit in protest outside the secretariat from tomorrow. Their grouse: the recent hike in CNG prices.

Two days before the Arvind Kejriwal government took over on December 26, the price of CNG was hiked by Rs 4.50 per kg but there has been no corresponding increase in auto fares.

The government, which claims the price has been hiked because Delhi’s quota is now shared with Ahmedabad following a Gujarat High Court order, have moved the Supreme Court.

The auto-rickshaw union claims the petition is merely a diversionary tactic. “We are not asking for a fare hike, the least the government could have done was to give us subsidy,” said Rajendra Soni, president of the Delhi Auto-rickshaw Sangh.

Auto-rickshaw owners had submitted a memorandum to transport minister Saurabh Bhardwaj on January 20 but efforts to meet ministers have failed since then. “We feel cheated. They rose from the road with our help and now they are ministers. We are left arguing with their personal secretaries instead,” Soni said. The AAP, Soni added, has backtracked on its manifesto, too. “In their manifesto they had promised to hike fares every time CNG rates go up,” he said.

The auto-rickshaw owners are also peeved by two decisions of the Kejriwal government. The government has made it compulsory for all auto-rickshaw drivers to attend courtesy classes. If they don’t, fitness certificates for vehicles will not be released. The classes are not free: the government charges Rs 113 per driver. Second, if an auto is impounded, the owner has to pay a fine of Rs 4,500 or the permit will be suspended for a month.