There is bad news for taxi commuters. Conceding the demand of taxi drivers, chief minister Mamata Banerjee announced revocation of Rs. 3,000 fine on taxi drivers refusing passengers and laid down a fivestage fine structure. The new fine structure will come into force from Friday.
Transport minister Madan Mitra had introduced the Rs. 3,000 fine. He has been arrested by the CBI for his alleged complicity in the Saradha scam. According to analysts, Mamata is wooing taxi drivers before Kolkata Municipal Corporation polls.
The chief minister also rained sops on taxi helpers’, auto-rickshaw drivers and drivers of commercial vehicles. The sops include reduced fines, withdrawal of light cases, asking police to go soft on parking in no-parking zones, health insurance to family pension.
She also announced withdrawal of light cases on taxi, auto, bus and mini-bus drivers if they promised to behave properly on roads. However, she said law would take its own course in serious cases against them. The chief minister, who also is the home minister, defended the action of police personnel opposing the taxi strike, which had caused problem for all in the city.
“I am against strong penal action against taxi drivers for refusal. We are banning Rs. 3,000 fines. It is too much. I think a driver can refuse a passenger at 11pm while on his way back home,” Mamata said.
From Friday, the first refusal by a taxi driver will attract Rs. 100 fine. The fine will be Rs. 200 for the second time, Rs. 300 for the third time, Rs. 400 for the fourth time and Rs. 1,000 thereafter.
Mamata also ordered police to go soft on taxis parking in parking zones until her government is able to identify taxi stands in different locations across Kolkata. There were no taxis on city streets for 10 days since last August in protest against state government’s Rs. 3,000 fine.
The chief minister announced a steering committee chaired by panchayat & public health engineering minister Subrata Mukherjee. Urban development minister Firhad Hakim, housing & youth affairs minister Arup Biswas, chief secretary, transport secretary, labour secretary and Kolkata Police top cop will be members, which would advice the state government on private transport sector issues and resolve complaints received from taxi and auto drivers against alleged police high-handedness.
“Love solves problems and not fights so please cooperate with the police on road. Make them your friend and they will guide and help you,” Mamata said to the thousands of taxi and auto drivers at Nazrul Mancha on Thursday afternoon.
Mamata won the hearts of all in the auditorium by showering their family with benefits. The chief minister announced R1 lakh health insurance for individual and Rs. 1.5 lakh for family in case of major illness and Rs. 30,000 per year for minor illness. “The facility will be cashless till Rs. 30,000 at government and designated private nursing homes and the rest would be reimbursed. However, you have to pay Rs. 30 to register,” said Mamata.
Mamata also announced pension of Rs. 1,500 per month after 60 years and family pension of Rs. 750 per month. For sudden and accidental deaths the family would get Rs. 2 lakh. The chief minister also announced giving Rs. 25,000 for the marriage of the children (up to 2) of drivers, which will be available after five years along with Rs. 2 lakh for accidental insurance for commercial drivers.