Kerala High Court talks tough on private bus strike

January 6th, 2010 - 7:25 pm ICT by IANS  

Kochi, Jan 6 (IANS) The Kerala High Court Wednesday talked tough and asked the state government about the steps being taken to end the ongoing indefinite statewide private bus strike that has hit commuters badly.
A division bench headed by Chief Justice S.R. Bannurmath said that it would be forced to intervene if the government does not end the impasse as the people of the state were suffering.

The court expressed its displeasure after hearing a petition filed by a women’s organisation that the Essential Services Management Act (ESMA) be invoked to deal with the strike.

Life was affected in the state for the second day Wednesday as over 30,000 private buses have been off the roads since Tuesday.

Private bus owners have been demanding an increase in the minimum fare from Rs.3.50 to Rs.5 and a reduction in the fare for students.

The owners decided to go ahead with the strike after two rounds of talks with state Transport Minister Jose Thettayil failed Monday evening.

Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan, meanwhile, told reporters here after a cabinet meeting that a high-level sub-committee of cabinet ministers has been deputed to deal with the strike by meeting the striking bus owners.

“We are meeting the owners tomorrow (Thursday) and we expect to find a solution,” said Thettayil.

The worst-affected districts were Ernakulam, Kottayam and virtually all of the northern districts of the state, where private operators run maximum services.

“Close to half a million families are dependant on the private bus industry. All what we are asking is a hike in fares because we reduced the fares when the price of diesel came down. Now that the price of diesel has been hiked long ago, we seek an upward revision of prices,” said A.K. Abdullah, chairman of the coordination committee of bus owners.

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