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Nod to transport fare hike
- Rollback of taxes ruled out, transporters threaten strike

Calcutta, Sept. 29: The government today hiked fares of private buses, minibuses and taxis but turned down operators’ demand to roll back the additional motor vehicles tax and other levies.

Unhappy with the decision, the operators threatened a “largescale movement” after Puja.

Transport minister Subhas Chakraborty said at Writers’ Buildings the fare structure was revised to what it was before July 7. The revised fare structure will take effect from October 10.

In private buses, the minimum fare will be Rs 3 for the first 4 km and 50 paise for every subsequent 4 km. For minibuses, the minimum fare will be Rs 3.50 for the first 2 km and Rs 4 for the next four. Thereafter, the fare will go up by 25 paise every kilometre. The minimum taxi fare will be Rs 15 for the first 2 km. For every 200 m thereafter, it will go up Rs 1.50.

In effect, the government went back to the fare structure it had announced in April after the price of diesel went up. The fare structure was revised from July 7 after the price of diesel fell.

Chakraborty said the government has also decided to keep the increased motor vehicles tax and other levies unchanged. “We have decided not to reconsider the operators’ demand. We made our own calculations and found that our taxes were lower than in other states,” he said.

The transport minister’s announcement evoked sharp reactions from associations of bus, mini bus and taxi owners, which said they did not want a revision of the fares but a rollback of the taxes and levies imposed. The associations will meet after Puja to decide on their course of action.

After the government raised the levies through a bill in July, the transporters in the state came together for the first time to call a three-day strike from August 26. The strike was scaled down to a day after Chakraborty set up a 21-member committee, headed by a joint secretary of his department and comprising representatives of the operators, to look into their demand. The panel submitted its report on September 10.

“We will have to go for a continuous movement and, possibly, an indefinite strike after the pujas. We cannot bear the burden of the sharp hike in taxes,” said Sadhan Das, general secretary of the Joint Council of Bus Syndicates.

The operators said they felt let down by Chakraborty on whose assurance they had cut short their three-day strike. “We demand immediate formation of an impartial committee to go through the enhanced taxes. There will come a time when we won’t call a strike but just lock up our vehicles in garages because we will not be able to run them after paying such high taxes,” said Abashesh Daw, general secretary of the Minibus Operators’ Co-ordination Committee.

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