Transport federation calls off Bengaluru bandh as minister holds talks amid complaints of hooliganism

Renegade auto-drivers & cab-drivers in the garb of agitators had a field day harassing and assaulting bike-taxi riders, and some were booked.

ByBellie Thomas

Published Sep 11, 2023 | 9:24 PMUpdatedSep 11, 2023 | 9:25 PM

Transport Federation Bandh in Bengaluru

The Federation of Karnataka State Private Transport Associations called off its daylong bandh midway through Monday, 11 September, after the state’s Transport Minister Ramalinga Reddy assured the federation office-bearers that their demands would be considered and met at the earliest.

However, the bandh was also marred by the common man taking to social media to highlight incidents of drivers of private transport vehicles — especially auto-rickshaws — resorting to threats aimed at bike-taxi riders and customers.

The Bengaluru City Police took to X (formerly Twitter) to acknowledge such incidents and inform the people that some individuals had been booked for their actions.

Also read: Survey shows 95% Bengaluru residents keen to shift to Metro

The protest

Thousands of private transport vehicle owners and drivers — including auto-rickshaw drivers, bus owners and drivers, and cab owners and drivers — gathered at the Freedom Park in Bengaluru to participate in the agitation and observe the bandh.

Lakhs of vehicles — auto-rickshaws, taxis, maxi-cabs, goods vehicles, and private buses, including school and corporate buses — stayed off the roads in Bengaluru.

The Federation of Karnataka State Private Transport Associations consists of a total of 32 private transport associations, and a majority of their private transport services decided to remain suspended on Monday in support of the bandh call.

The federation had called for the strike seeking a ban on white-board bike-taxis, and also urging the government to extend the Shakti scheme — which offers free bus rides to women on the state-run transport buses — to private buses, among other demands.

The transporters claimed that they had been negatively impacted by the scheme, and that the state government had not fulfilled their other demands despite repeated discussions.

A lot of passengers were seen stranded near the KSR City Railway Junction, Majestic bus terminal, and other bus stations across Bengaluru, with auto-rickshaws and taxis refusing to ferry passengers who were solely dependent on state-run BMTC buses.

Despite being provided additional BMTC and KSRTC buses in the city on the day of the strike, passengers were seen hitching rides on passing two-wheelers.

As private maxi-cabs and mini-buses are the main modes of transport for several schools, some schools in the city declared a holiday on Monday to avoid inconveniencing the students. However, other schools chose to remain open, communicating to the parents that they should arrange for the transport of their children, sources told South First.

Frequencies of the BMRCL’s Metro trains were increased on Monday so that the public at large was not inconvenienced by the transport strike.

The Bengaluru International Airport advised flyers to make necessary arrangements to reach the airport on time to catch their flights.

Related: Bengaluru auto drivers to go on strike to protest against bike taxis

The minister’s promise

Karnataka Transport Minister Ramalinga Reddy met with the federation’s office-bearers at Freedom Park on Monday and assured them that their demands would be met at the earliest.

The only exceptions appeared to be the extension of the Shakti scheme to private buses and the inevitable increase in taxes.

“We have assured the federation members that all their demands would be met except for the Shakti scheme extending to private buses and the increased tax,” the minister confirmed to South First.

“Some of the demands made by the federation will take time to be fulfilled, while others can be considered and fulfilled early. Regarding the bike taxis, cases are going on in various courts and only the court verdicts would decide the fate,” added Reddy.

The federation’s President Natraj Sharma told South First that the minister had given them the assurance that 27 of their demands would be met and the proceedings would start from Tuesday.

Interview: Shakti Scheme is a service, says Karnataka transport minister

Incidents of violence

Even as the Bengaluru City Police claimed that security had been beefed up across the city and all police forces — including traffic cops — were on patrolling duty since Sunday midnight, incidents involving vandalising of vehicles and assault were reported in Bengaluru since the early hours on Monday.

Commissioner of Police (CP) B Dayananda had issued a warning that stringent action would be taken against those indulging in any kind of mischief.

He also said that adequate security arrangements and police presence had been ensured at strategic points as a precautionary measure to tackle any untoward incident.

However, instances of assault and damage to vehicles were reported from several parts of the city.

Assault on a bike-taxi riders in Bengaluru. Screen grab from the viral video

Assault on a bike-taxi riders in Bengaluru. Screen grab from the viral video

South First went around the city and witnessed incidents ranging from the tyres of auto-rickshaws and taxis being deflated to bike-taxis being waylaid and riders being told to delete the apps from which they ordered their rides.

A group of auto-rickshaw drivers were on the prowl on Kempegowda Road near the Corporation Circle bus stand, checking if any auto-rickshaw or taxi was ferrying passengers.

They stumbled on an auto-rickshaw taking a woman passenger with a lot of luggage. They asked the auto-driver to stop and made the woman get down, telling her that there was a transport strike.

Though the woman pleaded in Hindi that she did not know the local language, the group of auto-drivers helped her carry her luggage and finally put her on a BMTC bus headed to her destination.

The group then deflated both the rear wheels of the auto-rickshaw and warned the driver not to ply his trade on the strike day.

Two drivers who had flags tied to their auto-rickshaw spotted a two-wheeler taxi near the Cauvery Bhavan on KG Road. They determined that it was a bike-taxi as the rider had mounted his mobile phone on a holder affixed to the handle, and there was a route map on the screen.

The auto-drivers stopped the bike taxi and asked the pillion rider to take a bus. The pillion rider was seen hastily walking away.

In another incident on the Bengaluru International Airport Road, a cab driver ferrying a passenger was stopped by the protestors who garlanded and felicitated him in a mocking manner for his bravery – driving his cab on a strike day. The agitators then not only abused him but also spat at him while sending him away when the police intervened.

Also read: Woman dies after car zooms into flooded Bengaluru underpass

Police book, arrest miscreants

As of Monday evening, the Bengaluru City Police had registered seven cases over bandh-related incidents where bike-taxi captains were assaulted and vehicles were damaged.

“There were multiple instances of abusive behaviour by auto-drivers and cab-drivers, and we have taken up cases based on the complaints that we received. The complaints are still coming in and the number of cases may go up,” said a senior police officer.

The Chikkajala police arrested one person for vandalising a taxi ferrying a passenger to the airport early on Monday.

According to a senior police officer from the Northeast Division, cab-drivers supporting the bandh stopped the taxi and asked the driver why was he ferrying the passenger during the transport strike. The angry protestors allegedly damaged the windshield of the car, for which a case was registered.

The Silver Jubilee (SJ) Park police in Central Bengaluru arrested three persons for assaulting an auto-rickshaw driver ferrying passengers on Monday.

The Sudduguntepalya (SG Palya) police arrested an auto-driver for assaulting a Rapido captain in Southeast Bengaluru. The bike-taxi rider was ferrying a passenger on the strike day when he was stopped and assaulted.

The Peenya police have also booked a cab driver who allegedly threatened a bike taxi rider in the HMT Layout area on Monday. There were heated arguments between the cab driver and the bike-taxi rider, and the police had to intervene before it escalated, a senior police officer told South First.

A group of auto-drivers assaulted a bike-taxi rider on the Anand Rao Circle flyover on Monday. The video of the threatening and assault on both the captain and the pillion rider went viral on social media.

Deputy Commissioner of Police (West) S Girish told South First that they had registered a case under IPC Sections 323 (assault) and 341 (wrongful restraint), and arrested the accused.