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Malda bus strike over driving test for licence

Malda, Aug. 20: A wild cat indefinite strike was called by private bus drivers to protest undertaking a driving test if they need to renew their licence.

Till late tonight the strike had not been lifted. Drivers’ unions will sit for talks with transport officials tomorrow again as talks today yielded no result.

Drivers’ unions cutting across political lines joined in the strike and complained that the regional transport office (RTO) was demanding that the licence holders go through a fresh driving test through a government-approved organisation to get their licences renewed.

Kaisuddin Sheikh, the secretary of the RSP driver’s union of the district, said that the strike was called to protest this decision of the transport department.

“The RTO wants that the drivers undergo a fresh driving test. If our drivers are busy giving driving tests when will they drive the buses? This is absurd.” He said the rule “of getting the licences renewed after giving a driving test” should be scrapped.

Kajal Roy, the vice-president of the Malda Bus and Mini-bus Owners’ Association, said the transport department’s decision was whimsical.

“The transport department is coming up with new rules and complicating matters. Those who already possess licences have secured them after driving tests. This is nothing but harassment,” Roy said.

A senior transport department official said the decision to take fresh driving tests for drivers of public vehicles was taken after a bus accident on Calcutta’s VIP Road in April 2008.

“After the accident it was decided that drivers of public vehicles, both private and government, will have to take fresh driving tests while renewing their licenses every 10 years. This is applicable across the districts and is aimed at ensuring passenger safety. I have no idea about the strike in Malda,” the official said.