Calcutta, Aug. 17: Transport minister Subhas Chakraborty has called representatives of private transport operators to Writers’ Buildings tomorrow.
He is expected to request the owners of buses and taxis and other private transport operators to withdraw their three-day strike from August 26. The transporters had said they were taking their vehicles off the road to protest the government’s decision to increase taxes on motor vehicles and impose new levies.
“At tomorrow’s meeting, we will explain to the operators the reasons behind increasing the taxes and put across the government’s views. We will also listen to their grievances and request them to withdraw the strike,” said Prashant, the joint secretary of the transport department. “Before the strike, we must exhaust all scope for talks,” he added.
Owners of all modes of road transport in the state had come together for the first time to call the strike. About 23,000 buses, 32,000 taxis and 8,000 mini buses ply across Bengal every day. All of them are likely to remain off the road on August 26, 27 and 28, if tomorrow’s meeting fails.
The transport operators were guarded in their reaction to the minister’s invitation for talks. “We can’t commit anything now because we first want to know what the government is doing to roll back the taxes. What new can the transport minister tell us' There is no question of withdrawing the strike if the taxes are not withdrawn,” said Sadhan Das, general secretary of the Joint Council of Bus Syndicates.
The operators will take out a rally tomorrow. They will march from the Maidan to Esplanade in protest against the tax hike. 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.
Chakraborty had convened a meeting with the major private transport operators’ bodies on August 11 to listen to their grievances over the hike in taxes but it failed. The minister had said at the meeting he could do nothing about the rise in taxes. It had come after 24 years, he had reminded the operators.
Strike call in jute mills
Four trade unions, including the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, have called a strike from Monday in jute mills across the state. Fifteen others, including Citu, are not part of the strike. Provident funds, gratuity and annual increments are among the demands.