Calcutta, Aug. 11: Private transport operators today decided to go on a three-day strike from August 26 to protest a hike in taxes after a failed meeting with minister Subhas Chakraborty.
Buses, mini-buses and taxis will stay off the roads across the state on the three days. This is the first time that owners of all modes of private transport in the state have come together on common issues to hold a strike.
About 23,000 private buses, 32,000 taxis and 8,000 mini buses ply across Bengal everyday.
The transport operators will take out a rally on August 18. Processionists will march from the Maidan to Esplanade that day. On August 22, they will gherao the public vehicles department at Beltala in south Calcutta and the offices of the Road Transport Authority in the districts.
After a meeting today, the transport operators said: “Road tax has quadrupled, permit fee has increased by 517 per cent, cess has been imposed and sales tax increased on diesel and there has been a sharp hike in the application fee for permits.”
Another issue raised by the taxi, bus and truck operators was “harassment by police” and the “growing tendency” on their part to impose “hefty fines on flimsy grounds”.
The transport minister had convened a meeting this morning with all major bus, mini bus, taxi, luxury taxi, chartered bus and truck operators’ organisations to hear their grievances in the wake of the hike in various motor vehicles taxes.
Transport department joint secretary Prashant, who was among those present at the meeting with Chakraborty, said the transport bodies wanted to meet the minister individually. “The minister said he could meet the organisations individually only after August 15. They went away. Now, if they have called a strike, what can we do' We haven’t yet been informed about it officially. However, we will keep an eye on the situation,” said Prashant.
Transport operators who attended the meeting at Netaji Indoor Stadium said Chakraborty told them there was nothing that he could do about the hike in taxes. The increase has come after about 24 years, he told them.
“We informed the minister that there was nothing we could do but to go for an agitation and walked out of the meeting. Our backs are against the wall. We don’t want an increase in fares, we want a rollback of the taxes. The meeting fell through,” said Nitish Kumar Rakshit, general secretary of the Bengal Bus Syndicate, a body of bus owners.
After the meeting, functionaries of the attending organisations went into a huddle at a building on Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Road. They finally came out with the decision to go on strike.
“By imposing the taxes, the government has pushed us to the brink. If it does not withdraw the taxes, it will not be possible for us to survive in this business,” said Abashesh Daw, a mini bus owners’ association leader.