Over the last three months, nearly 10,000 auto-rickshaws have been taken off the roads of Ahmedabad, ostensibly to check pollution within the city. As a result, many auto-rickshaw drivers were rendered jobless and have remained so till date. According to civic authorities, the impounded auto-rickshaws used to mix kerosene with petrol to cut down on fuel expenditure. The emission resulting from the burning of the mixture had a remarkably high percentage of carbon monoxide, raising the pollution level of the city to a large extent. Concerned by this, municipal authorities of Ahmedabad cracked down on the rickshaws about three months ago.
The rickshaws have yet to be returned to the drivers. "The problem is that most of the rickshaws that have been seized were rented by the drivers to earn a livelihood as auto-rickshaw owners rarely indulged in mixing petrol with kerosene," says Ela Bhatt, director of the Ahmedabad-based Self Employed Women's Association. "Now these poor drivers are at a loss on how to earn their living."
The authorities have imposed a heavy fine of Rs 3,000 to Rs 4,000 on the concerned driver if he wants his auto back. "This huge fine is the major reason for the delay in getting the rickshaws back," says Bhatt. "Very few of the drivers have been able to pay up the money." Desperate auto drivers have urged the municipal authorities of Ahmedabad to release their impounded vehicles. But, in a rare show of strictness, the city authorities have turned a deaf ear to the pleas.
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