CNG auto-rickshaw workers’ unions of Dhaka and Chittagong districts have called a strike to press home their eight-point demands, that include the imposition of a ban on app-based transport services like Uber and Pathao.
CNG drivers of the two major cities will go on an indefinite strike if their demands are not met by January 15, the union leaders declared during a recent press conference.
The eight-point demands by the CNG auto-rickshaw drivers include:
- Replacement of outdated vehicles with the new ones in Dhaka and Chittagong
- Distribution of 5,000 new auto-rickshaws among the drivers in Dhaka and 4,000 among the drivers in Chittagong
- A ban on app-based ride-sharing services like Uber and Pathao
- Revocation of sections from the draft labour law that go against workers’ interests
- The stopping of practical tests during driving license renewal
- The stopping of cases for unauthorised parking
- The stopping of harassment of drivers by police
- The allowing of registered auto-rickshaw drivers to drive anywhere in Dhaka.
However, commuters have strongly condemned the stance of the CNG drivers. Many of transport service users think that Pathao is a great means to avoiding traffic gridlock in the cities, while Uber is also considered a passenger-friendly transport.
Furthermore, commuters said CNG drivers often charge extremely high fares from passengers by taking advantage of the situation if a customer is in a rush, thereby reducing support for their demands.
Kefayet Ullah Chowdhury Shakil, convener of the Jatri Odhikar Andolon (Commuters’ Rights Movement) said: “Transportation has long been a regular problem in the capital. In such a situation, we welcome any sort of passenger-friendly transport system.”
“We believe that services like Uber and Pathao are helpful for the passengers and taking a stance against these services are completely out of the question,” Kefayet added further.
Saddam Hossain, who works in mass media and uses Pathao on a regular basis said: “Pathao rides often allow us to reach our destination within a shorter period of time amid the heavy traffic of Dhaka city. CNG drivers are supposed to charge the passengers as per the meter, but they hardly pay any heed to the regulation.”
“As such, it’s not fair to take a position against those who are trying to serve the commuters in a systematic way. People will not support their (CNG drivers) demands.”
The CNG workers’ union has called a 48-hour strike in Dhaka and Chittagong from November 27. Other protest programmes include a press conference at Chittagong Press Club on November 19, a workers’ assembly and demonstration at National Press Club and submission of a memorandum to tge Road Transport and Bridges Ministry on November 22, as well as a siege of the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority headquarters on December 10.
Furthermore, Secretary of the CNG workers union Shakhawat Hossain Dulal accused the auto-rickshaw owners' association leaders of extorting huge sums from the drivers in the name of license extensions, and also demanded proper maintenance or replacement of outdated CNGs.
“A number of CNG auto-rickshaws have been running in Dhaka and Chittagong for 15 years. Engines and chassis of these vehicles have been outdated and need an immediate replacement for the safety of drivers and commuters,” he said.
Previously, anti-Uber movements had been carried out by taxi drivers in many cities across the world, including London, Paris, Melbourne, Sao Paulo, Warsaw and Brussels.
The article was first published in Bangla Tribune