| Train passengers walk out of Patna Junction on Saturday. Picture by Ranjeet Kumar Dey |
Patna, Aug. 2: Commuters today faced a tough time as hundreds of autorickshaws plying between Patna Junction and Gandhi Maidan went on a wildcat daylong strike, alleging high-handedness of the district administration.
Around 9am, the autorickshaw drivers blocked the roads around Patna Junction and Gandhi Maidan and started protesting against Patna Municipal Corporation and the district administration. They didn’t pick up any passenger till 3.30pm, particularly those coming out of the railway station. They had to walk with heavy luggage.
“The cycle rickshaws are demanding exorbitant fare. I have to go to Exhibition Road and they are asking for Rs 60. With no autorickshaw plying, I don’t have any choice. Else, it would have taken me Rs 7 by auto,” said Mahesh Kumar, stepping out of Patna Junction.
The Bihar State Autorickshaw Drivers’ Union general secretary, Rajkumar Jha, said the administration’s move to lease out autorickshaw stands to private parties triggered the protest.
“The autorickshaw stands in Patna are being leased out to private parties who charge Rs 10 from each driver per hour. The practice was stopped in 2009 but the administration has decided to revive it. An autorickshaw driver waits for at least eight to nine hours at these stands everyday and earns a maximum of Rs 200 to Rs 300. How would they survive if they have to give half of their income to these private parties? Our repeated requests not to revive the practice were not considered. We sought time to meet the Patna district magistrate, the PMC commissioner and the chief minister but in vain” said Jha.
The strike triggered traffic snarls on roads leading to and from Gandhi Maidan such as Ashok Rajpath and auto stands at Dakbungalow roundabout and Income Tax roundabout among others were choked for hours.
Jha said two stands between Patna Junction and the Gandhi Maidan (in front of SK Memorial Hall) had been leased out to private parties. “They began collecting charges from yesterday but the autorickshaw drivers refused. Today, more of our drivers were bullied following which we resorted to strike. The administration said formal documents were yet to be handed to the private parties,” said Jha.