Six taxi associations in the city gave a 10-day ultimatum to the state government for a fare hike on Tuesday, failing which operators have threatened an indefinite strike. A final decision will be taken on Wednesday.
“We have sent a letter to the chief minister and transport minister requesting them to consider our demand for a fare hike within 10 days. If the demand is not met within the stipulated time, we will be forced to take taxis off the roads. The chief minister had promised a fare hike after Lakshmi Puja,” said Bimal Guha, Bengal Taxi Association secretary.
The six taxi associations include Bengal Taxi Association, Calcutta Taxi Association, West Bengal Drivers’ Welfare Association, CITU-backed West Bengal Taxi Workers’ Union, AITUC-backed Kolkata Taxi Operators’ Association and INTUC-backed Kolkata Taxi Drivers’ Association.
“If the government does not agree to a fare hike, we will request the passengers to pay us excess fares. It is becoming increasingly difficult to run taxis due to hike in diesel price and maintenance costs. During the pujas, many passengers happily agreed to shell out extra pennies to the drivers,” Guha said.
Taxi unions in the city called a threeday strike from September 20, which was later withdrawn after assurance from transport minister Madan Mitra that their demands would be looked into.
On the other hand, bus operators in the city are wary of going on the offensive against the state government at the moment. But they are busy finalising their course of action.
“We are meeting with the minibus union representatives tomorrow. We will be discussing on our future strategy. We cannot wait long. The government should at least consider making up for the 45% hike in diesel prices over the last year,” said Deepak Sarkar, vice president of Bengal Bus Syndicate.
Bus operators had called a strike from September 17-19 demanding an increase in fares. They had again threatened a strike since October 9 after which chief minister Mamata Banerjee requested them to withhold the strike during the festive season and promised to look into their demands after Lakshmi Puja. She also asked them to submit documents on the increase in fares and losses incurred by operating buses.
“We should not take any such step in a hurry that will provide the government with a scope to put the ball back in our court. They asked for time and we want to capitalise on that,” said Abasesh Daw, general secretary of Minibus Operators’ Association.
Senior bus operators claimed that 60% buses could not be plied due to the government’s policy not to hike fares.
“Since the chief minister had promised a fare hike after Lakshmi Puja, we are preferring to wait for a few more days. She was quite sympathetic to our demands and we are expecting a positive response on her behalf soon,” said Sadhan Das, Joint Council of Bus Syndicate secretary.