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Madan to meet bus operators

Transport minister Madan Mitra will meet representatives of six bus operator unions on Wednesday apparently to listen to their demand for a fare hike.

The decision comes a day after the operators of buses and minibuses threatened to go on a 72-hour strike beginning June 25 to press for a fare hike.

“The minister has invited us for talks. We will meet him because the industry is on the brink of closure. Unless the government agrees to a fare revision, more than 10,000 buses would disappear from the roads,” said Tapan Bandyopadhayay of the Joint Council of Bus Syndicate. “If the government keeps dragging its feet on the issue, we will go ahead with the strike.”

The unions that have threatened the strike include the Bengal Bus Syndicate, a pro-Trinamul organisation.

Sources in the transport department said Mitra decided to meet the operators’ representatives following a message from the chief minister that the transport lobby should be heard out before any attempt is made to desist them from going on strike.

In November 2012, a year after Mamata Banerjee had taken over the reins, the state government decided to hike bus fares by Re 1 in the face of persistent demands from private operators. Since then the price of diesel has gone up by Rs 11.77 a litre but the Trinamul government has not allowed any further hike.

If the operators go ahead with the strike, around 7,000 private buses and 1,100 minibuses would go off the city roads. Across the state, the figure would be around 42,000.

Since the last hike in November 2012, many owners have withdrawn their vehicles after finding it difficult to pay their EMIs. Bus operators on as many as 21 routes said the fleet strength on each route has dwindled from 12-15 to five-seven.

The result: long queues at bus stands. The chief minister had on May 26 said she had noticed people waiting in numbers across bus stops and asked transport minister Mitra to ensure there were more buses on the roads. The minister could not be contacted despite repeated attempts.