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Bus strike on Jan. 6

Operators of private buses and minibuses will go on strike on January 6 to press for a fare hike, the New Year’s Eve call aimed at arm-twisting the government during a festive season into accepting their longstanding demand.

The strike has been called by the Joint Council of Bus Syndicates, the biggest body of private bus operators in Bengal, and supported by the Minibus Operators’ Coordination Committee. The council has threatened to withdraw 7,000-odd buses in the city and over 38,000 across the state.

“The decision was taken after a meeting of prominent associations of operators of private buses and minibuses. We have given the government enough time (to agree to a fare hike). This can’t go on any longer,” said council secretary Sadhan Das.

“When diesel prices are constantly rising, why should bus fares be not hiked? Even Metro fares are shooting up,” said Das.

The announcement by the bus lobby to take on the Mamata Banerjee government came a day after transport minister Madan Mitra ruled out any hike in bus fares and the administration vowed to discipline 65,000-odd autos in and around the city.

Operators said 20-50 per cent of the buses on various routes have stopped plying since the last fare hike — which the transport lobby had dubbed “unfeasible” — in November 2012.During the last revision, the fares were hiked by Re 1 after the chief minister ordered rollback of a stage-wise increase.

The operators want a 60 per cent hike and setting up of a regulatory commission that will recommend fare revisions at fixed intervals.

The operators have been demanding a fare hike for nearly a year now to cope with increasing operational costs and substantial rise in fuel prices.

Minister Mitra said the strike was a “wrong footing by the operators” and the government would not “cower” to such pressure tactics.

“A hike in bus fares is out of the question now,” Mitra told Metro.