Orissa threatens to act tough to beat bus owners’ strike (Lead)

October 5th, 2009 - 11:12 pm ICT by IANS  

Bhubaneswar, Oct 5 (IANS) Private buses remained off the road for the second day Monday in Orissa, leaving thousands of people in the lurch, and the state government threatened to invoke provisions of the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) against the striking bus owners.
After two days of negotiations between the state government and bus owners failed to persuade the bus owners to withdraw their strike, the government threatened to resort to the stringent ESMA to beat the agitation off.

“ESMA would be applied against bus owners, in particular against those who are on strike. The strike has inconvenienced millions of people of our state. This should not be allowed to continue,” said Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Monday.

However, formal notification of the imposition of the ESMA was yet to be made till late Monday night.

On the other hand, the private bus owners’ association decided to continue with its strike for an indefinite period despite the threat of the ESMA.

“We have already scaled down our demand and proposed to the state government on Sunday during our meeting to share the burden of about Rs.7 crore collected as toll fee. We had proposed that the big buses be charged Rs.60 and smaller ones be charged Rs.40,” said Prakash Mishra, president of All Orissa Bus Owners Association.

“If the ESMA is the solution the state has come out with, we are ready to face any punitive measure the government will take. We will continue to remain on strike as we are facing losses due to exorbitant toll fee collection,” he said.

Private bus owners in Orissa last Friday night announced an indefinite strike from Sunday after the state government refused to roll back the toll fee and turned down their three-point proposal.

Two days of marathon talks failed to break the impasse and persuade the bus owners against the strike. The state government had earlier appealed to the private bus owners not to go on strike and said 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.

The government officials said they have made special arrangements for passengers, and additional trains have been requisitioned to ferry passengers. However, people were seen waiting for buses for hours together as there are few government buses to meet their need.

However, in western Orissa the bus services continued to ply normally at many places.

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