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Sanjana B, Pune

Bengaluru autos, private buses, and taxis are set to go on strike to protest the Shakti scheme on July 27. The scheme that was devised as part of Congress’ election campaign in Karnataka provides free government-led transportation services to women to “empower” them. 

The Federation of Karnataka State Private Transport Associations, however, claimed that the introduction of this scheme has affected their business. According to the association, the average ridership of private transport vehicles has gone down since. These private operators also stated that the recent losses will provoke more unemployment in Karnataka’s transport industry.

Over 20 organizations and unions representing autos, taxis, and private buses have decided to stage a bandh next Thursday. This forum of private transport operators also presented a memorandum before the Transport Minister last week. They sought compensation similar to the one given to state transport corporations for all losses the Shakti scheme induced. Speaking to The Indian Express, Nataraj Sharma, the chairman of the aforementioned federation said, “With the hope of giving jobs to the working class, the government that came to power with huge support from the youth is turning out to be poisonous by introducing the new scheme. We have submitted our grievances in petitions to the transport minister and the chief minister. But with demands not being met, the problem escalates daily. The government has pushed us to the jaws of death.”

As part of the strike on July 27, the auto drivers’ union will also demand a complete ban on Rapido bike taxis, a follow-up to their 24-hour protest in March. The union also expects a Rs 10,000 monthly compensation subsidy to auto drivers, the establishment of an unorganised commercial drivers transport development corporation, and direct loans from caste-wise corporations at low-interest rates. Private bus operators are demanding reimbursement or road tax for private vehicles to be abolished, limitations in terms of distance on the Shakti scheme, and deduction of road tax for contract and college buses.