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Bus strike threat

Calcutta, Oct. 6: The Joint Council of Bus Syndicates, which runs 37,000 of the 46,000-odd buses in Bengal, today threatened to go on an indefinite strike from Tuesday to press for a fare hike.

The move came after transport minister Madan Mitra ruled out an immediate fare hike and requested operators not to go on strike before the Pujas.

“I can’t take any decision on my own,” Mitra said at Writers’ after a meeting of the group of ministers on transport. “Transport operators have been suffering losses for quite some time. They ran on losses even during Left rule. But you (transport operators) have to be with the people and keep their interests in mind. I request you to not go on strike before the Pujas.”

Mitra briefed Mamata Banerjee on the meeting before speaking to reporters.

The Joint Council of Bus Syndicates said it would take its vehicles off the roads from October 9 unless the government agreed to raise fares. “How can private bus operators survive if fares are not hiked even after the increase in diesel price by Rs 5 a litre?” council general secretary Sadhan Das said. “The government has to take a call on our demand.”

Nearly 17,000 buses will go off Calcutta’s roads if the council decides to press ahead with the strike.

The other major private bus operators’ organisation, the Bengal Bus Syndicate, has decided to wait till Monday before deciding on its next course of action. Mitra is scheduled to meet taxi operators on that day.

“Let’s see what happens at that meeting. On Tuesday, we will hold a meeting with the minibus association and take the final call,” said Dipak Sarkar, the syndicate's general secretary.