The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Subhas talks fail to break strike deadlock

Calcutta, Aug. 18: Private transport operators today turned down minister Subhas Chakraborty’s request to call off their three-day strike beginning August 26 to protest the hike in motor vehicles taxes and new levies.

Chakraborty had convened a meeting with representatives of major private transport bodies at Writers’ Buildings today.

Though no relief for the commuters seemed in sight after the meeting, Chakraborty indicated that the government would take measures to ensure normal passenger transport if the 72-hour strike was not called off despite his appeal to the operators. “If the strike takes place, I will have to ensure a normal flow of passenger transport,” Chakraborty said.

The transport minister added that a committee with the director of the public vehicles department as its convener will be set up to find out if it is possible to bring down the taxes. The committee will submit its report by August 30. Other members in the panel will be from the transport department and some of the major private transport bodies, said Chakraborty.

Observers said the decision to form the panel was a softening of the government’s stand on the tax hike. Chakraborty had earlier ruled out any rollback of the increased levies.

“We will study the report and take a final decision by September 10. In the light of this, we have requested the transport operators to call off their strike,” the minister said.

The transport operators’ organisations that met the minister today went into a huddle this evening and concluded that the grounds on which the minister had asked them to call off the strike was “vague”.

“We suggested that the government set up an impartial committee to look into our demands of a rollback of taxes, enhanced permit fee and other levies. In effect, the government will control the committee formed today. We feel it is an eyewash,” said Sadhan Das, general secretary of the Joint Council of Bus Syndicates.

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