Kolkata residents suffer as private buses go off roads

December 10th, 2008 - 6:17 pm ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, Dec 10 (IANS) It was the common man who suffered most as all private and mini-buses kept off the roads Wednesday in support of a 24-hour shutdown called by the ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist’s (CPI-M) trade union arm across West Bengal. The strike was called by the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU)-suppiorted West Bengal Road Transport Workers Federation (WBRTWF) to protest the government’s decision to charge bus-drivers under section 304 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) in case of fatal accidents.

Since morning hundreds of people were seen lining up for hours at autorickshaw and taxi stands in various parts of the city. Exploiting the situation, autorickshaw and taxi drivers charged higher fares from passengers.

“I stood at the auto stand at Gariahat crossing in south Kolkata from 8 a.m. and finally my turn to board the auto came around 9.15 a.m. Not only was I late for office, but also had to pay Rs.15 instead of Rs.6 as auto fare,” said Nikita Dutta, employee of a private bank.

Long queues were also seen at all railways and Metro railway ticket counters.

Though only private and mini-buses were covered by the strike call, very few state-run buses were seen plying on the city roads, and they too were overcrowded.

“More state buses should have been plying Wednesday. But the situation is opposite. And even if a bus comes every 30 minutes, it’s so overcrowded that people were seen hanging on at the doors, and that’s dangerous,” said Manoj Chakraborty, an officer-goer.

Not only the state buses, but trams, local trains and Metros were also jam-packed.

A few city schools declared a holiday to avoid harassment to students. Examinations in some colleges were postponed.

Subhas Mukherjee, spokesperson of the WBRTWF, told reporters: “We are aware that people are being harassed because of our strike and our heart-felt apologies go out to them. But they should understand that our demand is justified. It’s not that the driver is always responsible for an accident. It’s unfair to put all the blame on one person and put him behind bars.”

About 10,000 private buses and 2,500 mini-buses ply across the city everyday.

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