Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit on Wednesday announced in the state assembly that the truant autorickshaws must have to go. Writing them off as a "low standard mode" of transport, she said the city deserved a "better and eco-friendly battery operated" alternative.
Voicing the average Delhiite's growing frustration with the traffic situation in the city, aggravated by the presence of over one lakh autos — half of them illegal — the chief minister said they were not the transport of the future and will be phased out.
She spoke her mind on this festering problem for the first time while intervening to reject a suggestion in the assembly that the number of autos should be increased from the existing 55,000, the cap imposed by Supreme Court, to ease the crunch for the commuters. Through most of question hour, the Opposition was voicing the anxiety of the commuters who are dependent on the autos.
Dikshit added that the government was in touch with auto makers Honda and Bajaj to provide battery-operated vehicles. Transport minister Arvinder Singh Lovely told the assembly that "a system on the lines of radio taxis or six-seater shared vans could be an alternative. We are working on it."
Earlier, amidst many suggestions ranging from regulating the truant autorickshaws to taking on the auto mafia that's responsible for cartelization, senior BJP leader Jagdish Mukhi had stressed the need for a review of the cap.
At this, the chief minister sprung to her feet with her candid observations: "I am concerned about the traffic situation and autos are low standard transport. They cannot be the future and will have to be converted or replaced with a better and eco-friendly alternative." She told Mukhi that a planned phasing out will be undertaken and details will be worked out by the transport department. However, she added that it could take up to four years to implement the plan.
While no immediate relief has been promised and the autos can't just be wished away without putting a viable alternative in place, the CM's comments will touch a chord among people who have no choice but to put up with overcharging, refusal to ply, dangerous driving and misbehaviour by the drivers daily.