Delhi transport strike: Hundreds stranded as cabs, autos go off roads

The situation was worse in certain parts of Noida and Ghaziabad. (Express Photo by Tashi Tobgyal)

The day-long transport strike against the steep rise in traffic fines under the amended Motor Vehicles Act caused severe hardship to thousands of commuters in Delhi-NCR Thursday, as a large number of autos, cabs and private buses remained off the roads.

Among the worst hit were people arriving at railway stations, inter-state bus terminals and the airport. At many places, protesters forcibly stopped the few autos and taxis that agreed to ferry commuters at a higher fare.

At New Delhi Railway Station, unable to find any mode to travel, an elderly couple who arrived from Pune around 12 pm broke down. A little distance away, Shivraj N and his family, who came from Bengaluru via Shatabdi Express, waited for over two hours before a taxi driver agreed to ferry them to their hotel in Darya Ganj in batches.

At Anand Vihar, which has a inter-state bus terminal and a railway junction, unruly scenes were witnessed as protesters forced passengers to deboard cabs they had managed to book via aggregators. Similar incidents were reported from Nizamuddin station.

At Indira Gandhi International Airport, passengers suffered surge pricing and long delays. The kaali-peeli taxis were also on strike.

Delhi Police said it received around 249 PCR calls from harried commuters, many of whom complained that the vehicles they were travelling in were stopped.

To regulate the situation, we deployed a force of 10 companies, including personnel from the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF), at districts including Outer North, South East, North East, East and Shahdara. No cases of violence were reported during the strike and legal action will be taken against the offenders, said Anil Mittal, Delhi Police Additional PRO.

The situation was worse in certain parts of Noida and Ghaziabad. Arpita Saha, a tattoo artist, said auto drivers demanded a fare of Rs 150 for a commute between Noida s Sector 50 and Sector 18, for which she usually pays Rs 50. Eventually I walked down to the Sector 34 Metro station, she said.

Among the worst hit were people arriving at railway stations, inter-state bus terminals and the airport.

Many private schools remained closed as private buses also joined the strike. Schools that depend on rented buses from the DTC functioned normally.

The strike, called by the United Front of Transport Associations (UFTA) that comprises around 41 transport associations, remained in force between 6 am and 10 pm.

UFTA convenor Rajender Kapoor said the strike was a major success and should serve as a wake up call for the governments at the state and the Centre.

A few people tried to create disruptions, but such incidents were very few; we do not endorse such behaviour. We will try to engage in a dialogue with the governments again and try to persuade them. If they don t relent, we plan to rope in transport associations of other states and hold bigger protests.

It is not just about higher fines. Our grievances are more against corruption by traffic police personnel. The government must make it mandatory for enforcement staff to wear microphones and body cameras to record the process of issuing challans for violations, Kapoor said.

The transport associations have also been petitioning the AAP government to reduce penalties for compoundable offences, which allows designated traffic police personnel to issue on-spot cash challans.

Section 200 of the amended MV Act empowers the states to issue a gazetted notification for compounding of certain offences.