Hold your horses, Bengal minister tells taxi, bus owners (Lead)

September 14th, 2012 - 5:25 pm ICT by IANS  

Mamata Banerjee Kolkata, Sep 14 (IANS) As bus, minibus and taxi operators in West Bengal threatened an indefinite strike if fares were not immediately raised in the wake of the abrupt Rs.5 hike in diesel prices, a non-committal state Transport Minister Madan Mitra Friday asked them not to rush to decisions too soon.

“How will we run buses if we don’t have the money? With an increase of Rs.5 per litre, it is next to impossible for us to run buses under this current fare structure,” Aboshesh Da of a minibus operators’ union here said.

Accusing the state government of ignorance, Da said, “If fares are not increased, bus owners will simply die. Today (Friday), we are having a meeting and we will announce our decision.”

The union government Thursday hiked diesel prices by Rs.5 a litre and capped supply of subsidised cooking gas cylinders to six per family per year. The decisions came into effect midnight Thursday.

“I have never seen such a sharp rise in diesel prices in my entire life. The state government has to increase bus fares with immediate effect, or buses will stop plying. Already, many buses have stopped plying,” said Sadhan Das of the Joint Council of Bus Syndicate.

Asked what would bus operators do if the state government refused to hike fares, Das said: “We will be left with no option but to go on an indefinite strike.”

Bengal Taxi Association president Bimal Guha said the Trinamool Congress-led government in the state has “double standards,” as it was part and parcel of the union government which had decided to hike fuel prices.

“Every time there is a price hike, Trinamool says they were not informed and launches a protest. But that does not help in any way,” Guha said.

“We cannot give the government time. Fares have to be increased in two or three days. Otherwise, we will be forced to go on an indefinite strike,” he said.

The transport minister, however, remained non-committal, and invited bus and taxi operators to be a part of the protest rally that the Trinamool will take out Saturday.

“I request them not to take any decision in a hurry. We know that they are facing problems because of this price hike. If fares are increased, the common people will suffer. We request bus and taxi operators to take part in the protest rally led by (Chief Minister) Mamata Banerjee to register their protest,” Mitra said.

Angry at the announcement Thursday of the diesel price hike, Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee said she would have been “very happy” to withdraw support to the United Progressive Alliance government at the centre, which had been following “anti-people” policies.

She also announced that her party would hit the streets against the decision to hike diesel prices, and threatened to withdraw her support to the central government if the hike was not reversed.

Related Stories

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Posted in Business |