Striking Unions Force Passengers Out of Cabs, Autos as Protest Against New MV Act Brings Delhi to Halt

New Delhi: As several private buses, taxis and autorickshaws remained off the roads due to transport strike, officer-goers faced difficulties in reaching their workplaces on Thursday morning. Many schools in the national capital also remained shut.

The protest turned unruly in some parts of the national capital by afternoon with transport workers forcing passengers out of cabs and autos. In Akshardham area, a cab was also vandalised for reportedly ferrying passengers despite the strike call.

The United Front of Transport Associations (UFTA) office-bearers on Wednesday said that both the Centre and the Delhi government had forced them to call the strike. "We have been seeking redressal of our grievances related to the new MV Act from both the Centre and the Delhi government for the last 15 days, but no solution is there in sight, forcing us to go on one-day strike," said UFTA general secretary Shyamlal Gola.

The services of Delhi Metro and Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) buses remained unaffected. Gola said over 50 transport associations and unions in Delhi-NCR were taking part in the strike.

Kishore Lal, a government employee, said he had to take the metro as the daily chartered bus from his residential colony to his office did not ply. "We waited for 15 minutes but the bus did not come. So we are taking the metro now," Lal, whose office is at the CGO complex, said.

The DTC buses were more crowded than usual due to the extra load of passengers. Some autorickshaws were also seen ferrying passengers. Kishan Chand, an autorickshaw driver, said this could be because the night shift ended at 8 am. The autorickshaws would stop ferrying passengers as the day progressed, he added.

The UFTA is an umbrella body representing 41 associations and unions of goods and passenger segments, including trucks, buses, autos, tempos, maxi-cabs and taxis plying in the Delhi-NCR region.

Many schools in the national capital will remain closed as a result of the strike. Many parents received messages from their children's schools informing them that educational institutes will be closed on Thursday.

"Most of the schools have announced an off due to the strike of transporters and preparatory leave of ongoing exams," said Bharat Arora, general secretary of the Action Committee of unaided recognised private schools.

A message from GD Salwan Public school read, "Dear parent, on account of the strike called by private transporters under the banner of the United Front of Transport Association in Delhi/NCR, the school shall remain closed for the students of classes nursery, KG and 10th on 19/09/2019."

Other schools that sent similar messages are ITL Public School in Dwarka, Chinmaya Vidyalaya, and DPS, Mathura Road.

Exams scheduled for Thursday have been postponed to Saturday at Chinmaya Vidyalaya. "Due to the transport strike called by the United Front of Transport Association, the school will remain closed on September 19. The scheduled exam for classes IV-XII will be held on September 20. For detailed information, please check the school website," a message from ITL Public School read.

"In view of the proposed transport strike in Delhi, the school will remained closed on Thursday, September 19, for all students and teachers. It has also been decided that this holiday will be compensated later. However, it will be a normal working day for the administrative staff," said a message sent by DPS, Mathura Road.

Gola said the road transport sector is already passing through its worst phase due to rising economic uncertainties, exorbitant taxes and penalties, and corruption. "The exorbitant and unviable penalties imposed through the amended Motor Vehicle Act, 2019, has increased corruption, high-handedness and harassment of vehicle owners and drivers," he charged.

The federation leaders demanded withdrawal of the provisions of the amended Act, such as steeply hiked penalties and limiting the liability of insurer to Rs 5 lakh, among others. Sanjay Samrat, president of the Delhi Taxi Tourist Transporters Association, said they will not be part of the strike.