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Walk, says Subhas as bus, taxi slam brakes

Public transport will be hit hard as private buses and minibuses slam the brakes for 48 hours and taxis go on an indefinite strike from Tuesday.

Transport minister Subhas Chakraborty expressed 'moral support' for the strike and said a fare hike would be announced within a week.

The minister urged people to 'walk two kilometres if necessary' on strike days, amidst government claims that all 18,000 state-owned buses and 150 trams would hit the streets.

But that will hardly be enough to cope with mid-week, exam-time, pre-Puja pressure.

There's a glimmer of hope for those in the habit of hailing a cab, though, as some taxi unions have decided, on strike-eve, not to go off the streets from Tuesday.

But the largest taxi union, the Bengal Taxi Association, said it would go ahead with the strike.

Schools, especially those conducting mid-year examinations, were in a quandary till word trickled out that school buses and contract vehicles ferrying students would not come under the purview of the strike.

A few schools, however, said they would postpone the examinations if the strike prevented students from making it to class.

Chakraborty said there was no question of government intervention in the next 48 hours. 'I have already spoken to the operators, but it did not work' I think the strike is justified. The Left Front has repeatedly stated its position against a hike of fuel prices,' said the minister, adding that the 'restructured fare' would be reasonable.

Swarnakamal Saha, president, Bengal Bus Syndicate, countered: 'We don't want increased fares, as that would inconvenience commuters. The government must withdraw cess and taxes.'

Chakraborty ruled out a cess withdrawal.

Meanwhile, security has been beefed up in view of the two-day strike. 'We have done everything to ensure that there is no problem for those wishing to commute,' said Anuj Sharma, deputy commissioner of police (headquarters).

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