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Taxi trickle amid slogans and threats at rally

Taxis remained off the roads on Monday as long as union leaders staged their agitation at the city centre. Transport minister Madan Mitra’s warning of strict action, including cancellation of permits, had little effect as more than 80 per cent of the taxi fleet did not ply. Before and after the rally, though, some cabbies did venture out. Metro hit the streets to track the taxis

FLAG ME DOWN: Some of the taxis hitting the streets took refuge in the CPM flag, fearing a rerun of the violence after last week’s rally by taxi unions. Most of the cabbies who ventured out were back in the garage by noon. “I took out my taxi at 4am and took it back to the garage by 11am,” said Uday Bhanu Chowdhury, who drives a Swift Dzire no-refusal taxi.

The prepaid counters at Howrah and Sealdah stations and the airport were mostly empty and most taxis stayed away from the Esplanade area, the venue of Monday’s rally.

GARAGE ON THE GO: Taxi drivers refusing passengers with “lunch” or “garage” signage is a common ploy. But on Monday cabbies used the same signage to keep protesters at bay and ferry passengers. A cabbie was spotted taking in passengers just outside the taxi bay near the Lindsay Street-JL Nehru Road even as a “garage” board stood propped up against the windshield. “We cannot afford to keep our taxis off the roads for four days in a month. I did not take my taxi out during the earlier protests but today I did,” said the driver as he headed for Ekbalpore with four passengers.

TAXI, TAXI EVERYWHERE… Taxis lined up by the roadside but none was willing to ferry passengers. Alleys near garages and night-parking zones at Chakraberia, Bhowanipore, Sakharipara (transport minister Madan Mitra’s neighbourhood), DL Khan Road and Park Circus saw taxis remain parked all day. “On other days, there are hardly five taxis in my garage. Today, 35 drivers have left their vehicles here and on the road outside,” said Nishant Singh at Chakraberia. Cabbie Sanjay Shaw reasoned that garages were the safest bet to avoid being fined by cops and the PVD.

COUNT DOWN: The Left-backed taxi unions had prepped hard — from erecting a stage and hiring 1,500 chairs to installing loudspeakers along the entire stretch from Esplanade East Road to Rani Rashmoni Avenue — but the turnout left them disappointed. Police put the participant count at 800. “Many drivers may have feared government retaliation. But they have at least showed us their solidarity with the cause by refusing to ply on the road today,” said Anadi Sahoo, a Citu leader and former labour minister.

The next taxi rally is slated for August 28, from Subodh Mullick Square to the transport department headquarters in Mangoe Lane.