Autos back as party leaders step in

(From top) People on the Tollygunge-Garia auto route wait for buses on Friday, a few start walking; some try to get on a bus. Pictures by Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya

Tollygunge: More than 800 autos on the Tollygunge-Garia route resumed serviced on Friday afternoon after Trinamul leaders intervened and spoke with auto union heads.

Auto drivers went on a strike after cops arrested one of their colleagues, Iman Ali Khan, on molestation charges on Wednesday night.

An elderly woman had lodged a complaint with Netaji Nagar police station, accusing Ali, 52, of repeatedly elbowing her while she was seated beside him.

She and her son had boarded the auto at the Usha Gate crossing near Bansdroni around 8.20pm.

Officers of Netaji Nagar police station and Regent Park traffic guard stepped in after Trinamul leaders told them on Friday morning to take strict action against those in favour of the protest show.

Some Trinamul trade union leaders who oversee auto operations in south Calcutta joined the cops to get the drivers run the autos though they kept demanding Ali be released on bail.

A minister, who is on a tour of north Bengal with chief minister Mamata Banerjee, got to know of the thousands of people struggling to board overcrowded buses in the absence of autos, a party source said.

Police officers soon started getting calls from several Trinamul leaders asking them to crack the whip on auto drivers unwilling to resume services.

At various points along the 8km stretch between Tollygunge and Garia, people, including the elderly, waited to board buses as rickshaws and yellow taxis made a killing.

"I told the drivers and their route leaders that the route will be closed down for a month if they continued with the strike," Subhasish Chakrabarty, president south Calcutta auto union, said. "The law should take its own course."

While autos resumed their services, the elderly woman turned up at Alipore court to record her statement before a magistrate.

Ali was released on bail, though, hours later.


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