Goa bus operators coerced into ferrying workers for Sonia rally

December 15th, 2011 - 4:28 pm ICT by IANS  

Sonia Gandhi Panaji, Dec 15 (IANS) Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s visit to Goa this Saturday has triggered controversy even before she has landed here with bus operators complaining that they were being forced to carry party workers to her rally free of cost.

Bus operators Thursday alleged that state transport department officials were forcing them to carry hordes of Congress workers to the rally Saturday evening and threatening them with action if they didn’t agree.

Sudip Tamhankar, general secretary of the All Goa Private Bus Owners Association (AGPBOA), said a formal complaint had been made with the director of transport Arun Desai.

“Officers right up to the rank of assistant director of transport are forcing the bus owners to carry Congress party workers for the rally. They have threatened that if we don’t oblige then they will initiate action against us by booking us with false charges,” Tamhankar said at a press conference.

All India Congress Committee (AICC) secretary in charge of Goa Jagmeet Singh Brar had said earlier this week that nearly 50,000 Congress workers were expected to attend Sonia Gandhi’s meeting in Panaji Saturday.

Brar had said that all Congress legislators and office bearers had been instructed to “get supporters” to the venue on the day.

According to Tamhankar, the Goa government’s transport department was playing handmaiden to the Congress by forcing them to take their privately owned buses off the official routes and instead ferry Congress workers for the rally.

“As per motor vehicle rules, a vehicle licensed to ply on regular routes cannot be rented out for any other activity like this rally,” Tamhankar said.

There are nearly 1,600 private buses operating in Goa. These are registered with the transport department.

A senior transport department official said they had received Tamhankar’s complaint and were looking into it.

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