Over 3,500 buses and pool cars ferrying schoolchildren and office-goers would remain off the roads in Calcutta and its nearby areas on Wednesday, prompting some schools to declare holiday and at least two to defer exams.
The strike called by the West Bengal Contract Carriage Owners’ and Operators Association in protest against a string of government decisions would be in effect from 6am to 10pm on Wednesday.
“Earlier, pool car operators were issued permits to ply across three districts. A car could ferry students from a school in Rajarhat to Behala, covering North 24-Parganas, Calcutta and South 24-Parganas. Now the transport department is allowing each car permit for just one district,” said Himadri Ganguly, the secretary of the association.
The strike prompted schools such as Delhi Public School, Ruby Park and New Town, and The Heritage School to declare Wednesday a holiday.
“We had to reschedule the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme Year 1 examination,” said Seema Sapru, the principal of The Heritage School.
Parents of students at Garden High School received text messages saying classes would not be held on Wednesday and exams scheduled for the day would be deferred to Friday if the strike was in place.
Apeejay School, Park Street and Salt Lake, stopped short of declaring an official holiday but students were asked to stay at home if commuting was a hassle.
Mahadevi Birla World Academy (earlier Mahadevi Birla Girls’ Higher Secondary School) and Modern High School for Girls, however, will have classes as usual. “We have our own buses and 80 per cent of the students travel by them,” said Malini Bhagat, the principal of Mahadevi Birla World Academy, adding that students would be allowed in 15-20 minutes late.
Terming the strike as “unfortunate”, transport minister Madan Mitra said: “...the contract carriage owners and operators have called a strike without talks with the government. Going into a confrontation with the government won’t help. We have already launched raids to nab private cars operating as pool cars but there is no point in causing inconvenience to people.”
Pool car operators alleged that the government was turning a blind eye to illegal pool car operators plying within the city.