Kolkata auto-rickshaw drivers protest ban, set bus ablaze

January 2nd, 2009 - 7:20 pm ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, Jan 2 (IANS) A state transport bus was set on fire Friday by auto-rickshaw drivers protesting the ban on two-stroke public transport vehicles in the city, the police said. “Auto-rickshaw drivers at Hazra Crossing in south Kolkata’s Bhawanipore area refused to show registration documents of their vehicles and started protesting when the police tried to seize five two-stroke auto-rickshaws as per the ban imposed by the Calcutta High Court,” a senior official of Bhawanipore police station told reporters.

An altercation ensued and the agitated drivers set fire to a bus, the official said, adding the agitators even blockaded the busy Hazra road for three hours, causing heavy traffic jams.

A fire brigade team from the nearby Kalighat fire station rushed to douse the fire, but the bus was already 75 percent burnt. The situation is under control now and traffic movement has returned to normal, the official said.

No one has yet been arrested for the incident.

Auto-rickshaw drivers at Taratala and Ekbalpore areas of south Kolkata too demonstrated against the ban.

According to police sources, agitators at Taratala broke glasses and window panes of a public vehicle and set fire to a wooden cable container in the middle of the main road to obstruct traffic movement.

The Calcutta High Court July last year issued an order to ban commercial vehicles registered before Jan 1, 1993, from Kolkata and its outskirts.

The court also directed that all auto-rickshaws, irrespective of their date of registration, will have to convert to either compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).

It said the order should be implemented by Dec 31, 2008, in the Kolkata Metropolitan Area, which includes parts of north and south 24-Parganas, Howrah and Hooghly.

It is estimated that around 80,000 auto-rickshaws, 24,000 taxis and over 8,000 buses and mini-buses would be affected by the implementation of the court order.

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