Drivers block the exit gate of Tatanagar’s parking slot on Friday. (Animesh Sengupta) nMetro 8
Tatanagar passengers on Friday morning faced a harrowing time as some 340 autorickshaw drivers struck work for five hours from 6am due to a dispute with the private parking contractor at the station.
Chakradharpur divisional railway manager had awarded a three-month Tatanagar vehicle-parking contract to one Vinay Kumar of Ganpati Enterprises, the tenure of which lapsed on Thursday midnight. When Ganpati Enterprises employees continued to issue blank slips of Rs 10 per trip on Friday morning, auto drivers refused to pay.
To give more attention to their grouse, drivers blocked entrances and exits of Tatanagar parking slot, ensuring no private car or two-wheeler entered station premises. People had to alight from vehicles on Station-Parsudih Road and walk to Tatanagar platforms with luggage.
Also, thousands alighting at Tatanagar, without the benefit of anyone picking them up on two-wheeler or car, were denied the facility of “share” or “reserved” autos to take them to city destinations. Autos are faster, more in number and have more routes than city or mini buses.
Initially, the GRP team didn’t listen to the auto drivers, which made them angrier. To break the deadlock, GRP inspector Arvind Singh finally intervened and told drivers they would look into the matter.
Auto drivers relented only when Singh assured them that he would take a week’s time to resolve the issue and till then, they could park for free.
Tatanagar Autorickshaw Drivers’ Association president Shyam Kinker said when the parking contract was over, how could the contractor’s men levy charges from auto drivers. “We stopped plying autos as a mark of protest,” he said.
Kinker said the slip issued on Friday did not have any authorised railway stamp.
Tatanagar GRP inspector Singh said on listening, he felt the demand of autorickshaw drivers was genuine. “I finally requested them to operate from the station stand without paying parking charges for now,” he said.
Contractor Vinay Kumar, when asked, said: “Our parking contract was for three months. We have applied before the Chakradharpur railway divisional authority for an extension.”
But in the course of the day, it emerged that another private firm, Deep Enterprises, bagged the Tatanagar vehicle parking contract for three years through a proper tender process. According to the agreement, this private firm will have to pay Rs 3.97 crore annually to the railways from parking fees that it.