The auto rickshaws plying within the Kochi Corporation limits will launch an indefinite strike from Thursday. The decision was taken to protest against the City Police drive to enforce use of meters in autorickshaws. The strike was called by the Coordination Committee of various autorickshaw trade unions.
According to Trade Union leaders, the decision to conduct services in the city on meter charge is not possible as autorickshaw drivers will not get return trips when they take passengers to arterial routes.
“The increase in the number of two wheelers and cars have resulted in fall in the number of autorickshaw passengers. With private buses conducting frequent services through main roads, a majority of them depend on buses. This has added to the burden,” said E P Suresh (CITU), of the Coordination Committee.
He said that in panchayats, the auto rickshaw drivers were allowed to collect a 50 per cent extra charges on the meter rates.
“Hence the authorities should launch a comprehensive study on the existing system and fixation of meter charges. Our demand is to introduce more prepaid autorickshaw counters so that complaints regarding fleecing can be reduced,” he added. Under the prepaid system, auto drivers will get 15 excess amount on meter charges. “Hence we will be able to manage fuel loss even if we do not get return passengers. We have launched a token strike last week. But, the authorities are not willing to considered our demand. We will also take out a vehicle rally on Wednesday from Palluruthy to Vyttila,” said P B Latheesh (INTUC) for Coordination committee.
The Trade Union leaders also demanded the authorities to take steps to issue 3,500 new permits promised by the Traffic Regulation Committee chaired by the Kochi Mayor.
“It has been one-and-a-half year since the Kochi Mayor convened the meting. The plan was to regularise the auto rickshaw stands and restrict the number of vehicles on permit basis. But, the idea is still on cards. There are many autorickshaws from neighbouring municipalities that conduct services in city limits,” added Suresh.