Friday will be a tough day for those commuting in autorickshaws. As many as 1.25 lakh rickshaw drivers will go on strike to protest the CNG price hike. Ahmedabad Auto Rickshaw Chalak Sangarsh Samiti has called for 72-hour strike starting from Thursday midnight in protest of the recent price hike of Rs7.15 per kg in CNG price.
Office bearers of 13 autorickshaw drivers’ unions in the city had held a meeting under the banner of the samiti at Usmanpura Garden on Wednesday to take a call on this issue. The auto drivers demanded either roll-back of CNG price hike of Rs7.15 per kilogram or increase in minimum fare to Rs18 from present Rs11.
“In Delhi, CNG price is Rs40 per kg and minimum fare of auto is Rs18,” said Harihar Mishra, president of the samiti, adding that it is injustice to auto drivers of Gujarat as CNG price is higher and the minimum fare is lower. “We want complete roll-back of hike or increase in minimum fare to Rs18. Else we will take our vehicles off road from Thursday midnight for three days,” said Mishra.
CNG prices have been hiked 31 times in last 23 months. At present, CNG costs Rs60.15 per kg, while in February 2011, their price stood at Rs35.24 per kg. In the last six years, CNG prices have risen by 167%. In 2005, CNG cost Rs22.50 per kg. Although fuel prices depend on the international market, higher value added tax (VAT) levied by the state government makes CNG costlier and unaffordable for auto drivers.
Auto drivers have been successful in getting the fares hiked thrice in the past 23 months. The minimum fare that used to be Rs9 and running meter Rs6 per km in February 2011 rose to Rs11 and Rs8 respectively in May 2012.
Protests against gas price hike
The Opposition Congress will hold demonstrations at Income Tax crossroads at 4.30 pm on Thursday to protest the steep hike in natural gas prices by Adani Gas and GSPC Gas. The Consumer Protection & Action Committee (CPAC) has also criticised the sharp increases in CNG and PNG prices and demanded immediate roll-back of the hikes. The CPAC also criticised the 15% VAT charged on natural gas in the state and demanded that the tax rate be rationalised.