Kolkata: Thousands of daily commuters were left in the lurch after auto rickshaws plying between Tollygunge and Garia went off the road in protest against the arrest of Iman Ali Khan, who allegedly molested a passenger on Wednesday evening.
Buses ran packed and seemed too little to cater to the surging crowd as hundreds waiting for hours at bus stops. In a city where the average commuter has little choice but to get into crowded buses or auto rickshaws with boorish drivers, this is a story that would find an echo in many women.
Several school students out to take their exams and IT executives who had to attend meetings were among many who suffered. No auto plied on the route during office hours and services resumed only around 7.30pm.
An auto rickshaw driver was arrested on Wednesday night for allegedly molesting an elderly woman who had opted to sit beside him because her painful hip joint made getting into the back seat difficult.
The woman said driver Iman Ali Khan, 52, repeatedly elbowed her after she and her son boarded his autorickshaw at the Usha Gate crossing near Bansdroni around 8.20pm.
The woman had called 100, the city police’s helpline, to report the incident after getting off the autorickshaw in Garia, a short ride from Usha Gate. She and her son noted down the vehicle’s registration number and visited Netaji Nagar police station later to lodge a formal complaint.
Iman’s arrest the same night triggered a strike by his colleagues on the Garia-Tollygunge route from Thursday morning. Autorickshaws did not ply between the two places – it used to be a busier auto route when Garia did not have a Metro station – all day and union leaders argued with police about the arrest.
“He has been driving an auto rickshaw for three decades and there had never been any such complaint against him. We protest his arrest on charges of molestation,” a driver said.
This is not the first time that an auto rickshaw driver has been accused of harassment by a passenger. But for every woman who reports such an incident, many more clam up and suffer in silence.