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NBSTC workers stall bus service for a day

Cooch Behar, Sept. 4: Over 60 buses that ply from the main terminus of the North Bengal State Transport Corporation here were not allowed to run this morning after contractual conductors, whose services had been terminated, did not allow the depot to be opened.

The agitation, started by the contractual conductors yesterday, was withdrawn at 8pm today after Trinamul Congress state general secretary Abdul Jalil Ahmed said he would start talks with them.

Twenty-nine people who were appointed as conductors on contract, following the demise of their kin in harness, began an indefinite dharna at 5pm yesterday and confined eight NBSTC officers to their offices.

Around 65 NBSTC buses from the depot ply on 89 routes daily and today’s shutdown affected at least 8,000 commuters who had to take private transport to reach their destinations.

The five cashiers, a chief inspector and a traffic officer who were gheraoed were released after 6pm today.

One of the agitators, Ranendranath Roy, said: “My father died in 1999 while working with the NBSTC and I was given a (contractual) job in 2001. I get a net pay of Rs 3,490 a month. There are 295 of us who have got jobs in a similar manner. Since the Mamata Banerjee government came to power, our contracts are being reviewed every three months. We are seeing that many of us are being sacked after these reviews,” he said.

Samit Pandey, another contractual conductor, said: “On Wednesday also we sat on a dharna and that day we had gheraoed the divisional manager of the NBSTC. Later, the managing director of the corporation, C. Murugan, sent us a message saying that he would meet a five-member delegation on Monday. But during the meeting yesterday, he began asking us about our performances and the meeting fell through. He did not speak once about giving back our jobs.”

Ahmed, who is also a member of the board of directors of the NBSTC, blamed the managing director for the state of affairs.

“The managing director is taking decisions without consulting the board and he is doing this under the instructions of Citu. We are not in favour of sacking people and what is being done is to sully the image of Mamata Banerjee. I have told the agitators that I will initiate discussions with the management about renewing the contracts and they have withdrawn the agitation. Normal services will resume tomorrow.”

Murugan, however, said the performance records of all the 29 conductors were not up to the mark.

“They have not showed up for duty for a single day in the past three months. That is all I can tell you,” he said.