On the first day of new year, over 85,000 autorickshaws stopped plying on the roads of Surat city and neighbouring talukas after they went on an indefinite strike on Wednesday demanding a cut in CNG prices provide by state-run Gujarat Gas Company Limited (GGCL).
The school autorickshaw unions also extended hands for the strike. Hundreds of auto drivers sat on dharna near Surat Railway Station since morning with banners and placards with the demand.
The call for an indefinite strike comes after GGCL - responsible for CNG distribution in Surat - did not accept the demands put forth by autorickshaw unions seeking a Rs 10-cut in fuel prices. A kilogram of CNG in Surat costs Rs 63, whereas same quantum of CNG supplied by Adani Gas in Ahmedabad and Vadodara cities costs about Rs 58.
Incidentally, GGCL is a sister concern of the state-government-controlled GSPC group that had acquired controlling equity stake from BG Group in June 2013. GSPC was first to announce a Rs 10-reduction in a kilogram of CNG after the state started getting cheap gas from Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL). GGCL supplies gas to over 2 lakh CNG vehicle users.
Irfan Kapadia, general secretary of Surat city Autorickshaw Union action committee, said, “Gas companies like Sabarmati Gas Company limited, Adani Gas, GSPC and GGCL are selling CNG to vehicles across the state. Some of them, including GSPC and Adanis, have rolled back about Rs 10 from their existing selling price. If they are relaxing the prices, why is GGCL hesitating.”
“We don’t want to harm the normalcy of city, but if we don’t protest or agitate, the GGCL will not realise it. Emergency services will not be affected due to our strike. This stand taken by GGCL is in violation of court verdict that asks CNG to be provided at similar rates, as those in Mumbai and Delhi,” Kapadia added.
“From Thursday onwards, five autorickshaw drivers will sit on an indefinite hunger strike, till the demands are met. Till now, the GGCL officials have not approached us for a meeting. We have received massive response from our auto drivers in the city and we also hope that demands should be fulfilled early so that the family members of the drivers will not have to suffer.”
Meanwhile, about 18,000 autorikshaws in Bharuch district is expected to join the strike from Monday. Abbas Patel, president of Jay Bharat Auto Rickshaw Union of Bharuch, said,