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Toll on Rohini Road slashed, strikes lifted

- GTA revises rates for second time as petrol pumps run dry and food stocks deplete

Darjeeling, Dec. 9: The GTA Sabha today slashed toll for vehicles of all seven categories for the travel through Rohini Road to smoothen the ruffled feathers of transporters as food and other essential items started running out of stocks because of separate strikes called by truck and taxi drivers.

Following the revision in the toll, second in just over a week, the transporters have decided to lift the strikes.

The toll has been decreased by more than 50 per cent in certain categories (see chart).

The new rates were reached on at a meeting convened by Jyoti Kumar Rai, the executive GTA Sabha member in charge of the transport department, here today. The representatives of the Darjeeling Truck Drivers’ Association and the Kurseong Pick-up Van Divers’ Welfare Association attended the meeting. The two bodies had been on strike since December 2 to demand the withdrawal of the toll that was imposed to maintain Rohini Road.

Members of the Darjeeling-Siliguri Main Line Drivers’ Welfare Association and Siliguri Main Line Gari Chalak Sangatan (Junction) didn’t ply their vehicles on Rohini Road for three days from Saturday to protest the collection of toll. The leaders of these two bodies along with those of the All Transport Joint Action Committee were also present at the meet.

Rai said: “We told the transporters that the strike was causing inconvenience to the public and in the greater interest of the people, we were once again slashing the toll. The rates will be applicable from tomorrow.”

Rajen Chhetri, the general secretary of the Darjeeling Truck Drivers’ Association, said: “Following the meeting, we have decided to immediately withdraw the strike.”

Eleven petrol pumps in Kurseong, Sukhiapokhri and Darjeeling had run dry because of the truckers’ strike. Foodgrains have also started running out of stock.

Another set of transport unions didn’t attend the talks called by the GTA and met separately at the Nepali Sahitya Sammelan. At the meeting, representatives of the Terai Chalak Sangatan and United Taxi Association decided to call of their three-day old strike. The members of the two bodies had stopped plying shared taxis between Siliguri and Darjeeling from Saturday.

Ian Pradhan, joint secretary of the Queen of the Hills Tourist Co-ordination Committee, which had called the separate meeting, said: “Following our meeting, we, too, have decided to lift the strike. Our members were of the opinion that since the government is collecting Rs 3,840 as tax in every quarter, it is their duty to maintain the road. We, however, decided to pay the revised toll as of now but our representatives will continue to correspond with the GTA on the issue.”