Autocracy here, humanity there Sudden strike trauma on roads

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By AMIT BHELARI
  • Published 12.07.13
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Rajesh Singh had to drop a lunch box at Patna Medical College and Hospital (PMCH) for his uncle. He had to walk for 4.5km to ensure his ailing uncle gets food because most autorickshaws were off the road.

“My uncle has been hospitalised and I had to drop a lunch box for him. I was unable to find any autorickshaw today (Thursday). The situation is pathetic because of the strike called by autorickshaw drivers,” Singh said.

The 45-year-old was among the thousands of commuters facing a harrowing time after autorickshaws went off the road to protest against the alleged “police high-handedness”.

Autorickshaw drivers on their way to and from Boring Road and Bailey Road have been asked to take Buddha Marg to pick and drop passengers in the Patna station area to keep the stretch between Frazer Road and Dakbungalow roundabout free of snarls.

But the autorickshaw driver’s union is allegedly not ready to follow the instruction of the traffic police and the district administration.

This, according to the union, is high-handedness. Autorickshaws on some important routes such as Bailey Road, Boring Road and Patliputra stopped their services on Thursday to protest against the police diktat.

The fallout? Tough time for commuters, stranded for a transport for hours in places like the Income Tax roundabout and Boring Road roundabout.

Boring Road resident Ayush Kumar (21) could not attend his private coaching at Patliputra Colony since he could not get an autorickshaw despite waiting from 11am to 12noon at Rajapur Pul.

“I have been waiting here for an hour but not a single autorickshaw is visible. On usual days, this area is jam-packed with autorickshaws. Who do I complain to? At last, I called up my coaching institute and informed the authorities concerned that I would not be able to attend the classes. I was not aware of the autorickshaw strike,” said Ayush.

Like the Patna University student, several other youths missed their regular coaching classes because of the autorickshaw unions’ strike.

On Boring Road, there are at least 30 private institutes that provide coaching for competitive examinations.

To overcome the autorickshaw crisis, commuters ended up paying extra bucks to rickshaw pullers and some jostled in the few buses available in the city.

Boring Road resident Subodh Kumar waited for half-an-hour for an autorickshaw for going to Patna Junction. He had to board the Shramjeevi Express (12391) that departs from Patna Junction at 10.50am. After waiting till 10am, he finally took a rickshaw near Hartali Mor for Patna Junction.

The rickshaw puller demanded Rs 120, which on usual days should not be more than Rs 50. An autorickshaw charges Rs 8 for the 3-km stretch.

On what made him pay through the nose, Subodh said: “I was getting late for the train. I got a confirmed ticket after 20 days and I don’t want to take any chance. Let the rickshaw puller rob me.”

Unperturbed, Raj Kumar Jha, the general secretary of Bihar State Autorickshaw Drivers’ Association and Patna District Autorickshaw Drivers’ Association said the three-wheeler strike sent a message to the police.

“The police should immediately release the confiscated vehicles and the autorickshaw drivers detained illegally. It is not possible for the autorickshaw drivers to take the Buddha Marg everyday because it is a narrow lane. The traffic police, without any condition, must allow autorickshaws to take the Dakbungalow roundabout route. Otherwise, the situation will turn worse in the coming days,” said Jha.

The police and the administration said they would not compromise with the autorickshaw union if they violate traffic regulations.

Patna city superintendent of police (SP) and traffic SP Jayant Kant told The Telegraph: “Nothing would be compromised as far as law and order issues are concerned. We are not bothered if autorickshaws are running or not in the city. Their demands will never be fulfilled. We shall not allow them to take the Dakbungalow roundabout route. The decision has been taken for smooth traffic flow.”

District magistrate N. Saravana Kumar said those trying to break rules will be put behind bars and their permits will be cancelled.

Autowale apni man maani karte hai (auto drivers do things according to their wishes). We shall not listen to them. Their permits will be cancelled if they do not follow the orders of the district administration,” he said.