Responding to the clamour for a revision of bus, minibus and taxi fares, transport minister Subhas Chakraborty said on Thursday that the government would announce the fare hike in the Assembly on March 25.
The minister, who met the transport operators at Netaji Indoor Stadium on Thursday, said that the hike was likely to range between 10 and 15 per cent. “As the Assembly is in session, the government cannot announce any decision bypassing the House. So, we shall announce the new fare structure in the Assembly. I have asked the Speaker to allot time for the announcement,’’ Chakraborty said.
At the meeting, both the Bengal Bus Syndicate and the Joint Council of Bus Syndicates demanded the minimum fare be pegged at Rs 4, with an additional Re 1 for every following stage. The three major associations of taxi-owners demanded a 20 per cent hike in fares. Chakraborty assured them that the government would ensure that the vehicle-owners do not incur a loss.
Soon after the minister announced the March 25 fare hike, the bus operators and taximen called off Thursday’s strike. The bus strike on March 24 and 25, too, stands withdrawn. However, the minister said the transport operators would observe a token strike in the city for 30 minutes from 12 noon on Friday to protest the US attack on Iraq.
“We admit that the demand for a fare revision is justified, after the repeated hike in petroleum prices. Fuel prices have gone up 11 times in the past two years. Besides, the cost of spares and tyres have also shot up. In this situation, there is no option but to hike fares,’’ the minister reasoned. He said the government wanted to compensate vehicle-owners for the additional cost they have to bear after the fuel price hike and, at the same time, ensure that commuters did not feel the pinch.
“We have already calculated the income and expenditure of transport vehicle-owners and come to the conclusion that a hike of 10 to 15 per cent is reasonable. The new fare structure will be realistic. I hope the commuters do not get agitated over it,’’ Chakraborty said.
The government will soon form a permanent committee to solve fare-hike problems in future. The committee, the minister said, will comprise officials from the transport department, representatives of vehicle-owners, heads of state transport corporations and trade union members.