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Auto strike hurts on Day V

An autorickshaw driver is escorted away by police personnel for allegedly trying to stop buses from plying in Patna on Thursday. Picture by Ranjeet Kumar Dey

The five-day-long autorickshaw strike is getting worse. On Thursday, a handful of autorickshaw drivers did not ferry children to school and tried to stop buses from plying.

Autorickshaw union members denied their compatriots who ferry schoolkids had stayed off duty but hinted all of them might join the strike.

An autorickshaw driver who ferries six-year-old Aditya Raj to Loyola High School refused to go on Thursday. He told Aditya’s mother Anjana Singh (32), a Rajapul resident, he feared the wrath of other autorickshaw drivers, who are on strike. Anjana said: “I had to call my friend’s husband, who dropped Aditya. I didn’t want Aditya to miss school, as his exams are round the corner.” Aditya is in Class I.

Satyendra Kumar, a member of Patna Zila Autorickshaw Chalak Sangh, said: “My association controls 2,000 autorickshaws, some of which ferry schoolchildren. We don’t want those autorickshaw drivers to join this strike as exams are round the corner. But we are helpless. We are thinking about not plying autorickshaws that ferry schoolchildren for just a day on Friday, to put pressure on the government.”

Autorickshaw drivers are on strike, alleging policemen extract Rs 10 from them at the stands for every trip by private parties. They asked the state government to address the problem. But district magistrate Manish Kumar Verma said: “Auto drivers who say they are charged Rs 10 for every trip are lying. They are charged Rs 10 per day at stands.”

Earlier in the day, Verma issued instructions to punish autorickshaw drivers who were stopping buses from plying normally. “We have information that some autorickshaw drivers are stopping buses. They are also stopping autorickshaws that have not joined the strike. Any autorickshaw driver found doing this, would be punished,” Verma said.

Sources said, some autorickshaw drivers were caught while trying to stop buses.

Residents who faced problems on Thursday have urged the state government to take steps to end the strike.

Raj Kumar Mishra, a Patna High Court advocate, said: “My wife went to bring my daughter Shatakshi from school, thinking the strike was over. She waited for around half-an-hour at the Boring Road roundabout but could not find any autorickshaw. Finally, she asked me to bring Shatakshi. I reached my daughter’s school 20 minutes late. I also gave lift to a friend’s daughter. The state government should look into the problems of autorickshaw drivers as soon as possible. Otherwise, residents will continue to suffer this way.”

Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly, Nand Kishore Yadav, took a jibe at the state government for its failure to address the problem. “The state government is insensitive to the plight of people,” he said.