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HindustanTimes Sat,19 Apr 2014

Madan tames bus unions in Kolkata

HT Correspondent , Hindustan Times  Kolkata, September 20, 2013
First Published: 11:25 IST(20/9/2013) | Last Updated: 11:28 IST(20/9/2013)

The 48-hour bus and minibus strike scheduled from Thursday ended in a whimper.

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Not only did it fail to have any substantial impact on the roads, it also had to be called off at 4pm with the strikers relenting to pressure from government and union workers.

Although 8,000 buses and 1,800 minibuses were expected to take part in the strike crippling the city’s transport system, no more than 5,000 buses and 500 minibuses actually took part in the strike.

Apprehending a major crisis, the government also ran a full fleet of 1,200 buses in and around the city that made the strike a super flop.

“I have roamed around a few important locations in the city and noticed there were no major problems. Most of the private buses plied as usual and the commuters haven’t faced any major crisis. I would like to support commuters for their wholehearted support to make the strike unsuccessful,” transport minister Madan Mitra told HT.

The government on Wednesday threatened to cancel the licence of drivers and conductors who would take part in the strike. It also threatened to tow buses that remained parked on roads throughout the day.

On Thursday, buses and minibuses in most city routes plied near normal, though the fear of unavailability of buses forced most people indoors till Thursday afternoon. Even before buses were supposed to go off roads, conductors in many routes were seen persuading passengers on Wednesday evening that buses would ply as normal irrespective of the strike call, giving a peek into the fate of the bus strike the next day.

The busier intersections of Airport Gate Number1, Ultadanga, Shyambazar, Behala, Park Circus, Ballygunge, Gariahat, Jadavpur, Science City and Ruby Hospital were seen frequented by buses. During the day, unusual police presence was also witnessed along major crossings to ward off untoward incidents.

But why did the bus owners did not respond to the strike called by their association?

Transport operators said among the 11,000-odd buses 3,000 buses are members of Bengal Bus Syndicate who were not taking part in the strike.

The remaining 8,000-odd belong to Joint Council of Bus Syndicate and their members (owners) were not willing to make a huge loss before Puja by taking part in the strike.

“The increase in prices of diesel and maintenance cost has reduced our profit margin considerably. To be honest, there have been days when we have incurred a loss. We do not want to increase our loss further by taking part in a strike just before Puja.

We would like to place our demand for fare hike and achieve it across the table,” said Sanjoy Nag a bus owner from the 3C/1 and 3C/2 routes.

The owner said that an indefinite strike that lasted for 72 hours in September 2012 demanding a fare hike yielded no result, apart from incurring a huge loss.

“Our income depends on daily ticket sale. Imagine, for three days before Puja last year we have not earned anything. Most important the government also refused to hike the fare before Puja. We decided against the strike acting on our past experience,” said Subashish Ghosh who owns a bus on 80B route.

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