The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Travel nightmare on track

Calcutta, Aug. 25: Life is likely to be jolted as private transport operators today did not climb down from their call for a three-day strike from August 26.

Buses, mini buses, taxis and chartered carriers will be off the road on all three days as the owners protest against enhanced motor vehicles taxes and certain other levies.

Taxis went off the road from 10 tonight.

More than 2,000 fuel pumps across the state will go on a three-day strike from Wednesday protesting against the enhanced sales tax on petrol and diesel.

Oil tanker operators today said they would observe a day’s “token” strike tomorrow. The tanker operators softened their earlier stand to join the three-day strike following a request from transport minister Subhas Chakraborty.

Describing the strike as “unethical and without logic”, Chakraborty urged the transporters to call off the strike. “We will press the entire fleet of 2,000 state buses, those belonging to CTC and the trams and try our best to ensure a normal flow of passenger transport,” Chakraborty said after a meeting with chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.

“We will make special arrangements to ensure that people coming out of airports and stations do not suffer,” he added.

Chakraborty warned that the government may requisition private buses and even issue temporary permits for vehicles to tide over the crisis. Police all over the state have been asked to take stern action against those preventing willing operators from plying their vehicles.

At a meeting with the fuel pump owners headed for shutdown, Chakraborty requested them to call off the strike.

“We did not give the minister any assurance. We have called a general body meeting on Wednesday where we will decide whether to continue the strike till Friday,” said Joydeb Sarkar, general secretary of the West Bengal Petroleum Dealers’ Association.

The truck operators, too, confirmed their decision to be part of the 72-hour strike. A meeting between the transport minister and the Federation of West Bengal Truck Operators’ Associations fell through.

More than 2,500 chartered buses carrying school children and office-goers will also be on strike.

About 23,000 private buses, 8,000 mini buses and 32,000 taxis ply across the state every day.

The three-day transport blackout will affect students and adults alike. Apart from auto-rickshaws, there would be no other mode of private transport on the road for three days from tomorrow. The transport minister said 100 government buses will ply in the city only to ferry school children to and from school.

Authorities of most schools and colleges have said it will be class as usual.

Calcutta University, however, has postponed all undergraduate and post-graduate examinations slated for tomorrow. However, no announcement has been made on any change in the examination schedule for Wednesday and Thursday. About 50 per cent of the students in private schools use chartered buses.

“We do not want to keep our academic activities suspended whenever there is a bandh or a strike. A good number of students avail of the school bus services offered by private operators. They should not have a problem attending classes on time as the Metro and government buses will ply as usual,” said St James School principal T. Ireland.

However, headmaster of St Lawrence School Father Anil Mitra said though his institution will remain open, class tests on the days of the strike may be deferred if the authorities find the attendance thin.

Some schools, though, have declared holiday, at least for tomorrow.

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