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Monday, September 3, 2012

Automen’s rally cripples commuters

    More than 6,000 autorickshaw drivers went on a rally against police and RTO action in the western suburbs on Monday. While it was a successful show of strength for the Sharad Rao-ledMumbaiAutorickshawmen Union, the rally crippled commuting options on a day of heavy rains. 

    The timing of the rally was benign for office-goers, sparing them inconvenience during the morning peak hour. But after 11am, commuters had a tough time finding conveyance in places like Kandivli, Goregaon, Malad, Jogeshwari and Andheri. "There were few autos in my area. The stands were mostly empty," said Ajay Samant, a suburban commuter. 
    Auto drivers began assembling with their vehicles near Malad's Inorbit Mall from 10am for the rally, which began around 11.30 am. They drove past the MTNLofficein Goregaon,taking the Savarkar flyover for the Western Express Highway, causing snarl-ups along the way. Traffic came to a standstill on roads in Malad, Goregaon, Andheri and on the highway. 

    "We were protesting against police harassment. Some of our members (drivers) were recently assaulted by cops from the Vanrai police station in Goregaon (East). We also raised our voice against rampant corruption in the Andheri RTO," said Shashank Rao, the union's assistant general secretary and Sharad Rao's son. 
    He said the rally was a success, obtaining an assurance from deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar that the drivers' demands would be looked into. "We had initially plannedto meetthesenior inspector atVanrai police station and give him our memorandum. But the deputy CM called us for discussions in the morning. He spoke to the police and the BMC commissioners, asking them to resolve issues with us. Finally, we submitted the memorandum to police commissioner Satya Pal Singh, seeking action against cops who harass our drivers," Rao said. "We regret autos were not available in some areas because of the rally. But we ensured that peak-hour traffic was not hit by holding the rally from 11.30am to 4 pm."

ROAD TO RIGHTS: Western Express Highway, Jogeshwari, which auto drivers took during their Monday rally in the afternoon

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