The Mamata Banerjee government will make a last-ditch effort on Saturday to persuade bus owners to call off their state-wide strike on Monday and Tuesday, failing which the administration will “make all attempts” to keep public transport running.
The bus operators have called the strike to press for a fare hike to offset the impact of rising fuel prices. Around 20 per cent of the private buses are already off the road, shrinking the count from 10,500 to 8,500.
The fares were last raised in November 2012 when the government had announced a stage-wise revision of fares but had to partially withdraw the hike following Mamata’s intervention.
“I will meet members of the bus owners’ associations, talk about their problems and ways to solve them. Calling a strike is no solution. It will only add to the problems faced by the people,” transport minister Madan Mitra said.
Earlier in the day, Mitra had tried to diffuse the crisis by calling a meeting of bus operators, but only representatives of the Trinamul-led Bengal Council of Bus Syndicate turned up. Other unions claimed they had not been invited.
Later, the minister held a meeting with the heads of the state-run transport corporations to prepare an action plan on pressing government buses into service if the operators go ahead with their strike. Sources said the chief minister had a word with Mitra and asked him to “make all attempts” to ensure that commuters are not inconvenienced.
“Even if the entire fleet of government-run buses, which will not be more than 500 to 600, is deployed, it would be nowhere close to the number of private buses. People will face problems if the strike happens,” said a senior transport department official.