Pune: Although air and railways have resumed operations, the city bus service Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal (PMPML) has not started operating its fleet in the city for common citizens. Due to this, most of the senior citizens and labourers have to rely on auto-rickshaws. The rickshaw drivers are also taking utmost care and can be seen using masks, face shields and putting plastic sheets between them and the passengers seating area amid COVID-19.
After the lockdown was imposed in March, police had permitted citizens to travel by autos in emergency cases. Now with the relaxations from lockdown in place, citizens have stepped out of their homes in large numbers and normalcy is returning to the city. Auto rickshaws and cabs have also been permitted to ply on roads. There are about 70 thousand rickshaws registered in Pune city and around 2.5 lakh citizens are dependent on this mode of transport.
Nitin Pawar, Co-ordinator of Rickshaw Panchayat said, "The Pune Municipal Corporation in its guidelines issued on June 8 has indicated that auto-rickshaws are permitted to operate in the city. So, the autos plying on roads in the city are not doing it illegally. Citizens and autorickshaw drivers are both dependent on each other. We should agree on one point that auto-rickshaw transport is a need of society."
Some senior police officials said that auto-rickshaws are needed by citizens and the municipal corporation has also given permission for them to operate. Taking action against auto-rickshaw drivers will not solve the issue.
Rajendra Jadhav, a regular auto commuter said, "I stay at Balajinagar and have to commute every day to my office on Tilak road. Presently, the PMP bus service is not available. I used a bicycle for some days, but there is steep incline while returning home so it was tiring for me. From the last few days, autos on shared-passenger basis have started operating, which is useful for me. I can reach Swargate in Rs 10 by these autos."