Why e-rickshaw drivers in Kozhikode are facing attacks

Unions of fuel-based autorickshaw drivers claim that permit concession allowed for electric autos is hitting their daily income

With opposition from traditional auto drivers and the lack of field support from the authorities, owners of electric auto-rickshaws are going through a struggling phase in the city. Though there are nearly 160 new e-rickshaws, drivers who own petrol and diesel variants are yet to entertain their hassle-free operation near taxi stands, bus stands and other boarding points.

The fear of losing jobs is also prompting many fuel-based autorickshaw drivers to unleash attacks on e-rickshaw drivers and isolate them. As e-vehicles are allowed to conduct service anywhere in the city without special permits, the traditional drivers’ unions claim that this hits their daily income.

“The stand-off is at the peak now as neither the police nor the Motor Vehicles Department authorities have made any intervention. Many e-rickshaw drivers are being manhandled these days with the silent support of diesel and petrol auto-rickshaw drivers’ unions,” says Binesh, a Vengeri native who recently purchased an e-rickshaw for city service. He points out that this atmosphere of insecurity is discouraging many passengers from utilising e-rickshaw services.

The growing stand-off has also dampened the spirit of several drivers who desire to purchase e-rickshaws and make use of the relaxed norms. Many who have purchased such vehicles are now limiting their service area, fearing backlash.

Reason for protest

At the same time, leaders of traditional auto-rickshaw drivers’ unions reiterate that they are not against the entry of e-vehicles to the city. They say that the main reason for the protests is the “loose service rules” set for e-vehicles, disregarding the concerns of the majority. They argue that the taxi service rules cannot be relaxed for the protection of a particular segment alone.

“What we seek is a fair permit system for e-auto rickshaws, which can streamline the city service without any big trouble. It is not fair to impose these regulations only for the traditional vehicles,” says an elderly diesel auto-rickshaw driver from East Hill.

He argues that the lack of a permit system for a particular segment alone will upset the traditional system, which had ensured equal livelihood opportunities for all in the sector.

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