CHENNAI: Bringing in a huge relief to auto drivers who have been struggling with no income since the lockdown began, the State government has allowed plying of autos and cycle-rickshaws across the State, except Chennai, from Saturday.
Barring areas falling under the Chennai police limits, autos can ply in non-containment areas across the State between 7 am and 7 pm, an official release said.Only one passenger will be allowed to travel in each auto.Besides, drivers who live in containment zones are not allowed to take out the vehicles.
The auto-rickshaws should be disinfected three times a day, and the drivers should keep hand sanitizers in the vehicle for passengers.The driver and the passenger should use face masks during travel, the release said.
M Chandran, General Secretary of CITU-affiliated Tamil Nadu Auto Drivers association, said: “It is not viable to run the autos with one passenger, given the high fuel prices. The government should relax norms in Chennai also as many private company employees need our service.”According to official records, around 2.7 lakh auto-rickshaws ply across the State.
PK Sukumaran, president of Coimbatore District Association of All Auto Rickshaw Workers Union, said, “For the last 54 days, auto drivers and workers have been struggling to make ends meet. Private firms, which had given loans, have been putting pressure on us to pay EMI. Besides, autos have to be taken for maintenance work as they have been in disuse for a long time.
“At this juncture, the government limiting the number of passengers to one will make things difficult for us.At least, two passengers should be allowed.”
Echoing similar views, Tirupur district autorickshaw drivers association (CITU) secretary B Sukumaran said, “There are more than 7,000 autos in Tirupur district, including 2,500 in the city. Allowing only one passenger is impractical. An elderly couple or a patient and his relative cannot board the vehicle. So, we will be forced to wait for single passengers.”
Auto driver S Saravanan (40), a resident of Alagapuram in Salem city, said, “Most of the people not likely to travel alone. We urge the government to give permission to allow two passengers to travel, which will help us to some extent.”
Welcoming the government decision, R Senthilnathan, district secretary of auto workers union (AITUC), said the drivers feel as if they have been released from imprisonment after 60 days. “However, restricting the number of passengers to one will affect our income as the elderly and people going to hospitals will not be travelling alone,” he said.