Calcutta, Jan. 6: Most private buses will go off the road across the state on January 20.
The Joint Council of Bus Syndicate has called the strike in protest against the hike in petrol and diesel prices and enhanced road taxes.
To compound the commuters’ woes, the Bengal Taxi Association, the Progressive Taximen’s Union and the Calcutta Taxi Association have already called a strike on the same day.
“We are already overburdened with taxes and the recent hike in diesel price has added to our trouble. In fact, the income from buses and mini buses is going down alarmingly and our repeated requests to the government to review the tax structure have fallen on deaf ears. We were left with no option but to go for a strike to pressure the government,” said joint council secretary Sadhan Das.
Transport minister Subhas Chakraborty did not rule out the possibility of a fare hike but said the joint council did not talk to him before calling the strike. “We are working on a proposed fare hike but the strike is uncalled for as it will inconvenience people across the state,” Chakraborty told reporters at Writers’ Buildings. “If the bus operators approach me for a discussion, I am ready to give them a patient hearing,” he added.
Reacting to the transporters’ demand, Chakraborty accused them of making a hue and cry over the state’s levies and keeping silent on “the Centre’s decision to increase prices of petrol and diesel on a regular basis”. “Our road taxes are still the lowest in the country,” he claimed.
Bengal Bus Syndicate, which controls a majority of private buses in and around the city, however, opposed the strike call saying it will not serve any purpose.
“We support the issues on which the strike has been called but the decision to withdraw vehicles for a day will aggravate the problems of the people. We have decided to submit a memorandum to the transport minister expressing our resentment over enhanced taxes instead of participating in the strike. We shall also request chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee to speak to the Centre regarding the frequent increase in petrol and diesel prices. We shall finalise our course of action at a meeting on Wednesday,’’ said Swarnakamal Saha, the president of the Bengal Bus Syndicate.
However, Das said the strike will be successful “even if a small section of bus owners opt out of it”. The strike in inevitable as the prices of diesel and petrol went up twice in a fortnight last month, said Das.
“With the hike in diesel and petrol prices, the cost of other lubricants go up and this leads to escalation of total cost, which we can’t afford these days,’’ said a bus owner.