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Taxi strike withdrawn

Taxi unions on Thursday withdrew their 72-hour strike to press for a fare hike, following in the footsteps of bus and minibus operators in response to the government’s carrot-and-stick approach.

Shortly before four taxi unions announced the withdrawal of the strike that had kicked in on Thursday morning, the government had hinted at a possible fare hike while adding that rules were being framed to prevent sudden transport strikes.

“I know the demand for a fare hike is genuine,” chief minister Mamata Banerjee said. If the operators saw a breakthrough in the statement, a word of caution followed: “Aamra aar ekta siddhanta nebo. Roj bandher naam kore bus, taxi chalabe na, eisob cholbe na. Taxi refusal beshi korchhe, eisob cholbe na. Aamra kothor aain aante jachchhi (Everyday taxis and buses stop plying in the name of bandh, it won’t be allowed. Cases of taxi refusal are on the rise, we won’t tolerate it. We are going to enact a stringent law).”

What would happen if operators ignore the government’s wish? “We will cancel their permits,” Mamata said.

Though the chief minister dropped hints of a hike in the fares of buses, minibuses and taxis, transport minister Madan Mitra remained evasive on the issue, saying a decision would be taken after a meeting of the group of ministers on transport and another between union representatives and the government.

“The government today suggested that there would be a revision of taxi fares. Details will be worked out after the group of ministers on transport meets on October 6,” said Bimal Guha, of the Bengal Taxi Association, after meeting Mitra at Writers’.

The organisations that had called the strike were the West Bengal Drivers’ Welfare Association, Aituc-backed Calcutta Taxi Operator’s Union, Citu-backed West Bengal Drivers’ Workers Union and West Bengal Taxi Workers Union. Together they control 22,000 taxis.

The unions were demanding that the minimum fare (for the first two kilometres) be raised from Rs 22 to Rs 32 and the fare thereafter from Rs 11 to Rs 16 per kilometre, following the recent hike in diesel price.

The bus operators had on Monday suspended their “indefinite strike” by 10 days and the minibus unions withdrew their strike call following minister’s hint of a possible fare hike and threat of action if they joined the bandh.