A Tuesday without taxis is what the Calcutta commuter is bracing for, with operators sticking to their stand of launching an “indefinite” strike to protest the court’s Bharat Stage II deadline and the government’s alleged indifference to their predicament.
Though state transport department officials said on Monday that attempts at a reconciliation would coincide with the start of the strike, Tuesday could signal tough times for commuters.
After the meter goes down on the indefinite taxi strike, buses and minibuses will go off the streets for 24 hours on Wednesday. “There is no question of deferring the strike,” said Joint Council of Bus Syndicates spokesperson Sadhan Das.
The strike by owners of taxis — confirmed after a meeting involving them and state transport minister Subhas Chakraborty failed to cover much ground — has the backing of the two largest operator groups, the Bengal Taxi Association and the Progressive Taximen’s Union.
The other large union of taxi-operators, the Calcutta Taxi Association, has decided to wait and watch, while stressing that the cess imposed on commercial vehicles was “absolutely unjust”.
Spokesperson Subhas Kaushal said his association was neither supporting nor opposing the strike starting Tuesday. “But we will not risk our vehicles on the road, as supporters of the strike will, in all probability, damage them,” said Kaushal. So, no respite there for the office-goer.
Positions appear to have hardened following last week’s police action on a march by taximen that also had an army of animals, including bullocks, horses and goats.
The march — purportedly aimed at highlighting the mode of transport that Calcutta would be left with if the state government remained bent on imposing the cess on taxis and the April deadline for auto-emission norms was to be met — was lathicharged. The protesters, forced to disperse, later cried foul over police high-handedness and reiterated their strike call.
Progressive Taximen’s Union spokesperson Madan Mitra said almost 35,000 taxis would steer clear of the streets from Tuesday. “There are nearly 18,000 luxury taxis that will not ply,” he added.
“We want an honourable dialogue with the government,” said Mitra, adding that lathicharging demonstrators and then inviting them to the talks table could not go hand-in-hand.
“Besides, the state government has not been able to present the transporters’ case before the judiciary. It is impossible to implement Bharat II norms by April,” he stressed.
Police, meanwhile, have chalked out special security measures for Tuesday. Anticipating trouble on Day One of the taxi strike, 300 extra policemen will be deployed near the Public Vehicles Department at Beltala and at major crossroads, said deputy commissioner of police (headquarters) H.P. Singh.
Minister Chakraborty said he will hold another round of talks with transporters on Tuesday.