Auto, taxi drivers protest gas price hike

New Delhi, May 20 (IANS) Autorickshaw and taxi drivers Thursday collectively voiced their angst against the expected increase in the price of compressed natural gas (CNG) by 20 percent.

The central government Wednesday decided to double the rate at which natural gas is marketed by two state-owned exploration majors — Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) and Oil India Ltd (OIL). This is expected to increase the CNG price also.

A number of autorickshaw drivers unions, who have long been demanding a hike in fares, said if their fares were not increased and the CNG price hike was implemented, they will go on an indefinite strike.

Ashok Kumar Tiwari, vice president of the Bharatiya Tipahiya Chalak Sangh, told IANS: ‘With rising prices and no change in our fares, life has become difficult for us. On top of that if there is any hike in the CNG price, we will go on an indefinite strike without giving any ultimatum to the government.’

Ram Narayan Yadav, an autorickshaw driver, said: ‘We have been demanding a hike in the auto fares for a long time but the government has paid no heed. Instead it is talking about increasing CNG prices. If that happens, we will surely go on strike.’

The price of CNG is Rs.21.19 per kg at the moment, Tiwari said.

Suresh Sharma, president of the Rashtravadi Janta Tipahiya Chalak Mahasangh, another autorickshaw drivers union, said a marginal increase in the CNG prices will still be acceptable, but only if their fares are also increased.

‘First, we want an increase in the auto fare. Only then we will accept a marginal increase in the CNG price,’ Sharma said.

Taxi drivers are also upset with the move.

S.K. Bhatia, president of the All India Taxi Federation said: ‘A marginal increase of one-two percent is still acceptable. But 20 percent hike is far too much, especially with high cost of living and every commodity ranging from pulses to auto tyres becoming more expensive.’

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