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Extra buses for taxi strike

About two-third of the city’s taxi fleet will be off the road for 24 hours from 6am on Wednesday because of the strike called by the Bengal Taxi Association.

The state government on Tuesday promised to run extra buses, especially from the airport, to make up for the shortage of taxis.

About 20,000 of the 30,000-35,000 taxis that operate in the city are expected to join the strike. On an average day, about 5,000 taxis do not ply because of various reasons.

The last time the association had called a strike, April 19, commuters had to face a lot of problems in reaching their destinations.

Even taxis run by the supporters of the Progressive Taximen’s Union, whose chief patron is state transport minister Madan Mitra, had disappeared from roads later in the day.

“Several taxi unions that have not officially joined us expressed solidarity with our cause and said their members would stay off the road on Wednesday. Only drivers who are not aware of the strike might ply their taxis until they find out,” said Bimal Guha of the Bengal Taxi Association on Tuesday.

The taxi union wants a hike in the minimum fare and night charge.

“Last time, those who had called the strike had intimidated many taxi drivers. This time, we have planned steps to ensure that people are not harassed,” Mitra told Metro.

A transport department official said an order had been issued to the heads of the transport corporations to ensure that enough buses are available at terminals, especially those at the airport and Sealdah, Howrah and Calcutta stations.

“Seventy buses are run in two shifts from the airport on an average day. Twenty extra buses will be run tomorrow. CTC will run 35 more buses than usual,” said a transport official on Tuesday.

The timings will be tweaked to serve commuters better. “The services between Howrah and Sealdah stations will start from 5am. The frequency of ferry service will be reduced to five minutes,” added the official.

Those supporting the strike are trying to ensure that it has the maximum impact. Members of the Bengal Taxi Association and its supporters, including the West Bengal Drivers’ Welfare Association, West Bengal Workers’ Union and the Calcutta Taxi Operators Union, took to the streets on Tuesday evening to urge drivers to stay off the road.