The Telegraph
Friday , January 10 , 2014
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Panel to look into auto-cracy

The government on Thursday announced a committee to look into the problems plaguing the autorickshaw service, though a report addressing similar issues has been gathering dust for close to two years.

Transport minister Madan Mitra said the panel — comprising transport secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay and additional police commissioner Soumen Mitra — would list the number of autos, and legal and illegal routes, demands of the unions and the system of fixing fares.

“The committee will submit its report within seven days. The government will take a decision based on the report,” Mitra said, soon after attending a meeting with police commissioner Surajit Kar Purkayastha, officials of the transport department and Trinamul trade union leaders. The meeting was held on the sidelines of a convention of auto operators called by the Trinamul trade union wing, INTTUC, at Netaji Indoor Stadium.

Till the report is submitted, the government would not allow any indiscriminate fare hike by operators or ferrying of an additional passenger.

“There are reports that operators have hiked fares on certain routes apparently because of a rise in the LPG price. Why should common people be held to ransom for a decision of the gas companies? The government will not tolerate any nonsense from auto operators,” Mitra said. “There is no question of autos being allowed to carry an additional passenger.”

The message was, however, almost lost on the 400-odd auto operators who had gathered at Netaji Indoor Stadium to attend the convention. “The leaders couldn’t come up with any specific prescription,” said an operator on the Dunlop-Sinthee route.

INTTUC president Dola Sen, who chaired the convention, admitted that such a meet was unlikely to throw up a solution. She ducked when asked about illegal autos — around 65,000 in and around the city.

“Mamata Banerjee doesn’t want any hike in fares in the transport sector and we stand by this,” Sen said. Asked about the auto fare hike across Calcutta, she ducked again. “Let the committee give its report.”

In April 2012, after the first INTTUC convention of auto operators in the city, the government had asked a transport department official to draw up a report within a month on problems related to auto service.

The decision stemmed from a realisation that the transport department lacked database on autos, a must for analysing problems and reaching a solution.

“The report had taken into account all factors related to autos, including the number of authorised and unauthorised autos in the city and its surroundings and how the operators could be made to function within a legal framework,” said an official in the transport department. “No action, however, has been taken on it.”