Alleging that electric rickshaws (e-rickshaw) are being operated without securing permit from local bodies, over 3,000 conventional autorickshaw drivers went on a token strike in Kozhikode city on Monday.
The protesters, who also staged a Satyagraha in front of the KSRTC terminal, claimed that the “unregulated services” had been taking a toll on their income, derailing the taxi operation system.
The strike was total and affected rail passengers mostly. Fearing hostile action from agitators, e-rickshaws too kept off the road. Low-cost online taxi services were of some help for many though they were scanty near railway and bus stations.
In some areas, drivers cancelled even school trips. The coordination committee had directed all trip operators to make the strike a success. Entry of autorickshaws from outside the city was also prevented by protesters.
Meanwhile, the coordination committee held it was not against e-rickshaws, but they should be allowed under a proper city permit system managed by the city corporation or other local bodies. As such, a system is in place for patrol and diesel autorickshaws, and there should be no exemption for new entrants, the committee said.
Committee convener P. Hemanthkumar said traditional drivers should be given enough time to replace their vehicles with electric ones and cooperate with the government in its pollution control initiatives. Besides, they deserve financial support in the form of loans to purchase new vehicles, he added.
At the same time, leaders of a newly formed e-rickshaw drivers’ union alleged that the protesters had been raising baseless demands without studying the revised rules. They pointed out that permitless operation was one of the attractions of e-rickshaw services, and that many were exploring the opportunity without technical hassles.