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Govt tough, taxi rally on Monday

The Mamata Banerjee government on Thursday approached a city court seeking cancellation of the bail granted to 22 taxi drivers arrested during a violent protest at Esplanade last week. The Left trade unions responded by calling for another round of agitation on Monday.

Every time the Left unions have called a protest rally — thrice in the past week — taxis in the city have gone off the roads. Monday could be another no-taxi day. “The petition filed by the state transport department is likely to be heard by the chief judge of the court on August 27,” a court official said later in the evening.

Government sources said its lawyer had been lenient in court the last time so that the drivers got bail but the administration was hardening its stand realising that the unions want to prolong the agitation.

“The public prosecutors did not strongly oppose the bail prayers as the associations had promised to lift the strike if the drivers were released. But at the meeting (with transport minister Madan Mitra) on Wednesday, the union leaders were still threatening strike for other demands,” a state-panel lawyer said.

“So the government decided to file the petition on Thursday,” said the lawyer who deals with the transport department’s cases.

After the meeting failed on Wednesday, the Left trade unions spearheading the strike threatened to take to the streets again “within three to four days” and the government decided not to blink.

The lawyer also said that 400 other taxi drivers, who were showcaused by the transport department for committing similar offences, “would now feel the consequences”.

“The bail cancellation petition by the state will make those 400 drivers realise that they too cannot get off easy,” he added.

Left trade unions leaders said they would wait till Monday afternoon for the government to “change its attitude”. Unless that happens, taxi drivers under Citu and Aituc would converge on Esplanade at 2pm.

“We invite all trade unions in the transport sector from lorry to buses to taxis at the public meeting. Even taxi owners (not just drivers) are welcome,” said Subhas Mukherjee, Citu leader. “We are not calling any taxi strike. But if drivers turn up at the rally, there could be some inconvenience for commuters.”

On Thursday, Citu leader and former labour minister Anadi Sahoo said: “The transport minister had said during our last meeting that he would think about our demands over the next few days. But after stepping out of the meeting, he said the government would challenge the bail petition.”

After learning that the government had moved the City Sessions Court seeking cancellation of the bail of 22 drivers Left union leaders said they too have started taking necessary action.

“We have already started talking to our lawyers and if the government challenges the bail petition, we will fight it out,” said Nawal Kishore Srivastava, an Aituc leader.