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Front okays fare hike

Calcutta, March 23: The Left Front today gave the green signal to the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government’s proposal for increasing minibus, private bus and taxi fares in view of the recent hike in petrol and diesel prices.

At an emergency meeting at the CPM headquarters, the Front’s leaders asked transport minister Subhas Chakraborty to prepare a revised fare structure and submit it to the chief minister so that Bhattacharjee could take a final decision.

CPM politburo member and Front chairman Biman Bose said there was no other option before the government because prices of petrol and diesel had increased twice in the past few days. “We have asked Chakraborty to prepare a revised fare structure,” he added but stressed that the government would have to keep in mind ordinary passengers while finalising the rates.

As the Assembly is in session, the revised structure will be presented before the House. The government will have to refer the final fare chart to Front leaders again for approval. Bose said the government would announce the new rates only after the Front approved it.

It is learnt that Chakraborty has already proposed that minimum taxi fare be increased to Rs 15 from the current Rs 12. The minimum fare on private buses is likely to be Rs 3.50 from the existing Rs 2. For minibuses it is likely to be Rs 4, a hike of 50 paise, sources said.

Sources said today’s meeting was called in a hurry because of criticism by some of the Front constituents. A number of them had criticised the CPM as Chakraborty had expressed his personal opinion and told reporters that it would be difficult for private transport operators to run their business because of the increase in fuel prices in such quick succession. Chakraborty’s statement also surprised several key CPM functionaries as the transport minister himself suggested that the fares be hiked.

CPM sources indicated that the party had instructed Chakraborty not to handle the bus fare issue on his own but to consult the party and the Front leaders. The CPM had faced criticism from its partners on earlier occasions, too, as party ministers had taken individual decisions on major issues.

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