Nearly 12,000 auto-rickshaws went off the roads on Tuesday causing severe inconvenience to commuters across the city. The auto-rickshaw associations went on a dawn-to-dusk strike demanding subsidy in diesel prices or a hike in fare, parking lots and relaxation in driving licence norms.
The city buses failed to cope with the situation. Almost all the 70 city buses plying in Bhubaneswar were too crowded leaving a large number of commuters high and dry. Though cycle-rickshaws did try to share the load, they were too few and too slow to be of much use. “Almost all the city buses that I came across were jam-packed. There was no way I could have got onto any of them. So I walked,” said Gokul Patnaik, who walked from AG Square to State Museum near Kalpana Square this morning.
The worst sufferers were students and office goers. Padmanava Samal, secretary of All Orissa Auto-Drivers’ Mahasangha said, “Diesel prices have increased so much. Everyday each auto-rickshaw driver sustains a loss of Rs 50 after the price hike. Like other states, the Odisha government should also come forward to help us by withdrawing VAT from diesel or we issue us a revised rate chart.”
However, following an assurance by the transport commissioner that their demands would be considered, the autorickshaw drivers have decided not to hike the fares till the puja vacations are over. “The transport commissioner has promised to look into our demands. So, we have decided to wait,” said Samal.
In September, the state government had revised city bus fares increasing them by Re 1 for destinations less than 12km. The maximum fare was increased to Rs 37 from Rs 32.