Nearly 52,000 autorickshaws went off the roads in Pune and Pimpri Chinchwad to protest against what they claimed was ‘illegal ferrying’ of the city’s passengers by radio cabs. Autorickshaw owners are feeling the heat of competition from radio cabs and have made it the main issue of their one-day strike in Pune. A lot of their anger was targeted at the radio cabs in Pune and fear of clashes forced radio cab operators to stay off roads on Monday.
The Rickshaw Panchayat, representing a majority of the autorickshaw owners and drivers, in the region participated in a near total strike on Monday. Nitin Pawar, convenor of the Rickshaw Panchayat said there was no level-playing field and they had to face unequal competition from radio cabs. “We are subject to all kinds of regulations while the radio cabs are given a free run. They are all running as tourist taxis but are picking up intra-city passengers just like the autorickshaws do without clearance from the regulators,” Pawar said. The radio cabs were also charging fares lower than the autorickshaws while they had to follow a regulated fare structure, Pawar said.
Pune has had a radio taxi service from a Pune-based company, Wings Radio Cab, since 2008-09 which saw an opportunity to fill in the gap in the city’s transport infrastructure and had been running successfully since then. But Wings Radio Cabs is not an aggregator of taxis and had its own fleet of around 500 vehicles as well as a fleet through a shared ownership model with cab drivers. The entry of an aggressive Ola Cabs has lead to the sudden expansion of radio cabs in Pune in the last one year.