Chennai, July 20(BPNS)
With fuel prices touching all-time highs and Covid leading to shut down, the auto drivers of Tamil Nadu are calling it a day. Trade union leaders and activists are of the opinion that a large number of autorickshaw drivers in Tamil Nadu are leaving the profession and selling their autos at the minimum price they get.
Mohammed Shabeer, an autorickshaw driver from T Nagar in Chennai while speaking to BPNS said,” Yes I have already sold my auto and is planning to work in some shops to support my family. Fuel prices are touching an all-time high and daily it is increasing and we don’t have any other option rather than to quit. I have not paid my EMI for the past four months and that too by selling all the last gold available at home. Hence I thought that it is better to quit rather than move on with huge losses.”
Mohammed Shabeer also said “Banks never gave any leniency even after the markets were shut for more than two months due to Covid and with hiking fuel prices. I have decided after long thought to call it a day. I cant pull along with these liabilities.”
The trade unions are of the opinion that the autorickshaw drivers are not in a position to carry on their day-to-day activities after the fuel process are hiking on a day to day basis.
K.K. Kathiravan, a trade union leader associated with the AITUC, autorickshaw drivers union, and living at Kanyakumari while speaking to BPNS said,” The union has strongly recommended the state government to somehow settle this issue. The Union government is creating problems by unnecessarily hiking fuel prices and there is no hope for the autorickshaw drivers.”
The auto drivers complain that while they fill their fuel tanks with petrol worth 400 rupees, they get business for rs 200 to 300 only. This has led to many auto drivers quitting the job and turning into other works.
Selvaraj Manicakam, CITU leader and autorickshaw union general secretary at Madurai while speaking to BPNS said, “ A rough estimate finds that around 15 to 20 percent of the autorickshaw drivers have quit the profession and have sold their auto to settle the liabilities and are scouting for other jobs. The decade-old unrevised fares are the main reason for this and with a heavy hike in fuel prices and post-Covid shutdown, the auto drivers are a harried lot. We are submitting a detailed memorandum to the government to revise the fares.”
After Tamil Nadu has announced free travel for women in state-run buses, the women are also not frequenting the autorickshaws. Most of the women are now traveling in buses and others are hard bargaining on the fares.
Kumar Ganeshan, an autorickshaw driver at Pammal in Chennai while speaking to BPNS said, “I am selling my auto and even at a reduced price, takers are less. Prices of fuel are at an all-time high. Shops and establishments were closed for the past two months due to Covid and we didn’t have any job. Now after the DMK government announced free travel for women in buses, most women are traveling in state-run buses and we don’t have any work. Have to do find a job in a shop or somewhere to support my family.”
Senior DMK leader K. Ponmudi while speaking to BPNS said,” The government is aware and the Chief Minister will be calling a meeting of the union leaders and the concerned minister and let us see what best we can do.”
In Trichy, the situation is worse and more than 40 percent of the auto drivers have quit the profession and have sold their autos.
K. Manikandan, Trichy district secretary of the CITU while speaking to BPNS said,” The auto drivers are quitting the job in large numbers and are selling their autos to settle the liabilities. There has to be a revision in the fare which is a decade old and this is the only solace for these drivers who find it very difficult to pull on. The Union is giving a memorandum to the government to hike the prices.”