Calcutta, June 21: Private bus owners in Bengal today decided to go ahead with their 72-hour strike from June 25 to demand a fare hike.
The decision was taken at a meeting of Bengal’s six bus unions today. The state’s 42,000-odd private buses, including Calcutta’s fleet of 7,000 buses and 1,100 minibuses, will stay off the roads.
The decision to go ahead with the strike comes four days after the state government set up an eight-member committee with four cabinet ministers and representatives from the Congress and the SUCI to look into the demand for a fare hike.
The committee has also been tasked with making comparative studies of the fare structures in other states and draw up a report within a month. The Left refused to be part of the committee.
Tapan Bandyopadhayay, the president of the Trinamul-backed Joint Council of Bus Syndicates, the largest union of private bus owners in Bengal, said after the meeting: “We have had enough of these committees. We want an immediate assurance from the transport minister that fares will be increased. The government can then take time to implement the decision.”
Transport minister Madan Mitra said: “I appeal to bus owners not to resort to any step that would invite the ire of people. The government is ready to talk, but not at gunpoint.”
The last time bus fares were hiked in Bengal was in November 2012. The fare had been increased by Re 1 then, prompting private bus operators to protest. Around 72 per cent of the buses in Bengal are privately owned.
Police today slapped a case of culpable homicide not amounting to murder on the minibus driver who hit a Maruti Swift after jumping lanes on Beliaghata Main Road while racing another bus yesterday, killing three people.
The death toll in the accident rose to four today as a passenger of the minibus, which turned on its side after hitting the Swift, succumbed to his injuries.
A father returning home after fetching his daughter from school died of cardiac arrest when the bus collided with his car before turning on its side, killing two passengers yesterday. The bus driver is absconding.