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Lobbies granted clout of count

From five to nine to 19 — in 24 hours. The climb in the count of the transport lobby representation in the committee formed to keep the wheels turning in Calcutta is as steep as can be.

The state government raised twice, through Tuesday-Wednesday, the number of transport lobby members in the committee it has constituted to look into the transporters’ grievances, making its own officials an insignificant minority in the peacemaking process.

Ironically, from Saturday to Tuesday — when the committee did not sit down to discuss the contentious transport roadblocks even once — the government officials’ representation in the government-constituted committee was more than that of the transporters — six in the 11-member committee.

On Tuesday, when state transport minister Subhas Chakraborty succeeded in convincing owners of buses, minibuses and taxis to return to the road the next day, the government raised the number of members in the committee to 15, with all four additional berths going to transporters, pushing them to a nine-six majority.

On Wednesday, the strength of the committee was raised to 25, a rise of 10 in just 24 hours. And, again, all the additions were representatives of the transport lobby. The transport lobby-government balance at the end of the day was a lopsided 19-six, in favour of the former.

The transport minister, however, would not admit that he was surrendering to the transport lobby. “Simply setting up a committee and delaying the implementation of a new set of rules do not imply that the rules are going to be changed,” Chakraborty explained. “The committee’s recommendations are not binding on the government and, ultimately, we will decide in our wisdom what to do with the taxes.”

The transport lobby appears to be in cruise control as far as the numbers game goes. “There are so many organisations in the transport sector,” joint council of bus syndicates secretary Sadhan Das said. “If all the lobbies are not represented, there always remains the risk of the unrepresented group going on a strike.”

The committee met for the first time on Wednesday and dissolved without coming to any conclusion. “Representatives of different transport organisations demanded withdrawal of the increased tax,” said public vehicles department director (and convener of the committee) Prashant.

All committee members have been asked to submit their views in writing by Friday. These will be submitted to the government on Monday, officials said.

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