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Trinamul meet to ‘discipline’ autos

The Trinamul trade union will hold a convention of auto operators and unions on January 9 to discuss issues like indiscriminate fare hike, abrupt change of routes, rude behaviour with passengers and rampant violation of traffic rules.

Indian National Trinamul Trade Union Congress (INTTUC) leaders who will address the convention will drive home the message that any operator flaunting Trinamul links and violating rules would be “sternly” dealt with, said a leader of the organisation.

INTTUC president Dola Sen will be among the leaders who will address the gathering. “We might call some senior police officers to speak,” Sen said.

“Chief minister Mamata Banerjee is opposed to any hike in transport fares. This is also the party line. We will tell the operators they can’t hike fares arbitrarily. At the same time, we will discuss the problems operators are facing because of the rise in LPG price.”

A source said the decision to call a convention by the Trinamul trade union was taken at a meeting transport minister Madan Mitra held on Tuesday with his department’s officials and representatives of the city traffic police and the public vehicles department. “Those who attended the meeting highlighted how auto drivers were holding the city to ransom,” the source said.

Metro had on Tuesday reported how auto drivers fleeced commuters taking advantage of the bus strike on Monday. Also, autos on various routes have hiked fares on their own, citing the recent rise in the LPG price.

An INTTUC leader said representatives of seven districts, including North and South 24-Parganas and Howrah, would attend the January 9 convention.

Sources said if the move to discipline auto drivers fails, the transport department would ask the police to launch a crackdown on errant operators without waiting for any informal nod from party bosses.

The INTTUC had held a similar convention a year ago, where, too, the transport minister had made a pitch for discipline. The two-hour convention ended with the operators promising to abide by rules. The drivers also vowed to cooperate with passengers and lend them a helping hand whenever needed.

Any change on the ground following the meeting lasted a couple of months.

Sources said the chief minister had recently expressed her anguish to Mitra over the manner in which many auto drivers, party flags fluttering atop their vehicles, were demanding higher fares. She apparently lost her cool on Monday after reports reached that drivers were extorting passengers during the bus strike.

“We will do whatever is needed to bring a method into this madness,” Mitra told Metro. “The government will not sit with hands folded and wait and watch.”

Trinamul leaders involved with auto unions, however, said they would be in a spot if asked to ensure a rollback of the fare hike.

“It would be impossible to agree to a rollback following the rise in LPG price by around Rs 12 a litre,” said a leader.