Orissa cracks down on striking bus owners, 12 arrested

October 6th, 2009 - 9:54 pm ICT by IANS  

Bhubaneswar, Oct 6 (IANS) The Orissa government Tuesday cracked down on the striking bus owners and arrested some of them under the stringent provisions of the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA), which the administration has invoked to deal with the situation.
“We have instructed district administrations to take action against striking bus owners. As per our information, six bus owners have been arrested in Mayurbhanj district, four in Bhubaneswar and two in Bhadrak district,” state Transport Secretary Pradip Kumar Jena said.

However despite the arrests, the bus owners’ association is steadfast in its stand. The bus operators went on an indefinite strike from Sunday after the state refused to roll back the toll fee collected along the national highways, and turned down their three-point demand.

“Some people have been arrested. But we are firm on our demand. The state government should consider our demand as it is a genuine one, instead of taking punitive measures,” said Debasis Nayak, the spokesperson for the All Orissa Bus Owners’ Association.

There were reports of district bus associations in some districts of Western Orissa backing out of the ongoing strike. But the bus owners association has dismissed any such happening.

“No, all the district bus owners are with us. There was some confusion on our part in communicating the decision to some bus owners. But now all the bus owners are with us,” said Prakash Mishra, the president of state bus owners’ association.

Two days of marathon talks failed to break the impasse and dissuade the bus owners from going on strike. The state government had earlier explained to the bus owners that the toll fee is collected uniformly by the National Highways Authority of India across the country and the state government has nothing to do with it.

According to the state private bus owners’ association, about 5,000-6,000 private buses are off the road in the state.

People continue to suffer as the bus strike continued for the third day Tuesday. As there are few state-owned buses to ferry passengers, people are depending on the railways to commute, leading to heavy traffic in railway stations.

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