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Govt buys bus fare time

Calcutta, Sept. 29: The government today sought “more time” during a meeting with bus operators who pressed for a fare revision in the wake of the diesel price hike.

Members of the Joint Council of Bus Syndicates, which runs around 20,000 of the 30,000-odd buses in the state, met transport minister Madan Mitra at Writers’ Buildings.

The 10-day window the government had sought from the bus operators to consider their demand ends tomorrow.

“We met the minister today to apprise him of the problems we are facing in running buses in the aftermath of the Rs 5 hike in the price of a litre of diesel,” said Sadhan Das of the Joint Council of Bus Syndicates. “We have hit the wall. It is just not possible for us to run buses without raising fares,” he added.

Mitra admitted that the demand was genuine but sought “more time” to discuss the issue with his cabinet colleagues.

“We need some time. The group of ministers on transport will meet to discuss the issue of a fare hike. The chief minister will take the final call,” the transport minister said.

On September 20, Mitra had negotiated to end an indefinite bus strike by seeking 10 days from the operators to look into their demand.

Sources in the government said the transport department wanted to buy time till the festive season was over before taking a call on revising fares. The last time bus fares were revised in Bengal was in September 2009. The minimum fare was then raised by Re 1.

“Between July 2009 and September 2012, the price of diesel has increased by over Rs 15 but the fares have remained the same. No industry can survive in such a situation and we are no different. We will wait till October 8 before deciding on our next course of action,” said Dipak Sarkar of the Bengal Bus Syndicate, another umbrella body of operators.

Representatives of the Bengal Bus Syndicate and taxi and minibus associations met today to discuss ways to press for a fare hike.

The government had sought time till October 8 from taxi operators to look into their demand.

“On October 9, all transport operators will meet to decide our next line of action,” said Bimal Guha of the Bengal Taxi Association.

Auto crackdown

Mitra today said the government would crack down on auto-rickshaw drivers in “a day or two”, following complaints of misbehaviour.

“A section of auto drivers are behaving badly with passengers and even forcing them off vehicles. We have instructed police to launch a massive crackdown in a day or two,” the minister said.