The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Brake on strike and tax
-Transpoters relent after govt puts levy increase on hold

Aug. 26: The government today wilted under the pressure of transport lobbies and fear of travel trauma across the state.

However, the three-day strike from Wednesday by more than 2,000 petrol pump owners is still on course.

A day into the three-day strike by transporters, the government put on hold its decision to raise motor vehicles taxes and the wheel-jammers called off their protest.

After a meeting with the transport operators, the government announced its decision to defer the hike in taxes. It also accepted the transporters’ demand for a greater representation in the expert committee formed last week to look into their grievances.

Transport minister Subhas Chakraborty said: “I have conceded the transport lobbies’ demand for a larger representation in the committee as it was quite justified. We have included four fresh members in the 11-member committee, which will submit its report on September 1. The government will take a final decision by September 10 and till then, the enhanced taxes will be put on hold.”

Road tax, permit fees, the charge for fitness certificates and the one-time tax for vehicles were among the levies that the government had raised.

“The transport department has phenomenally increased the fines to be collected from operators for various offences,” said Swarna Kamal Saha, president of the Bengal Bus Syndicate.

“We decided to withdraw the strike as the government conceded our demands, including the one to defer imposition of new taxes and accept more members from the transporters’ bodies in the expert panel,” said Saha.

Chakraborty has convened a meeting with representatives of the pump owners tomorrow to discuss their grievances, which include imposition of sales tax on petrol and diesel.

People across Bengal resorted to panic buying from last night in view of the impending shutdown. IOC general manager P.K. Bose said he has written to chief secretary S.N. Roy to persuade the service station owners not to go ahead with the strike.

Pumps owned by IOC and HP will remain open tomorrow.

Inspector-general of police Chayan Mukherjee said though transport services were “by and large normal” in Calcutta and its neighbourhood, the strike was total in north Bengal.

Bus, mini bus and taxi owners were joined by truck keepers and owners of luxury taxis in the strike call.

There was no law and order problem, said Mukherjee. No vehicle could ply in Nadia because of a bandh called by a Naxalite outfit, he added.

Chakraborty said about 2,500 private and mini buses plied in and around the city. However, taxis were not available.

“I am happy that the striking transport operators have decided to end it. We are reconstituting the expert committee to accommodate members from all major transport organisations and its decision will be binding on them,” he said.

The government had constituted the 11-member committee to look into the demands of transport operators but they boycotted it saying it was “one sided”.

Officials at Writers’ Buildings said the transporters’ strike did not have any impact on government offices and attendance was normal.

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