Auto drivers hold city to ransom

Saturday witnessed large-scale incidents of rioting and arson by auto-rickshaw unions that rocked the city throughout the day.

Written by Express News Service | Kolkata | Published:January 4, 2009 2:20 am

Saturday witnessed large-scale incidents of rioting and arson by auto-rickshaw unions that rocked the city throughout the day. With taxis and auto unions declaring a 12-hour bandh,besides the rallies held by political parties — both the Trinamool Congress and CPM — it were the commuters who were the worst hit.

A day after the arrest of 18 people,most of whom were auto drivers,there was no sign of any mellowing in the protests. “We have arrested 11 people on Saturday for arson. It is not clear to which political party they belong,” said Pradip Chatterjee,Joint Commissioner of Police.

Police sources,however,said the miscreants were mostly auto-drivers,formerly CITU men who have now changed ranks and joined the Trinamool-backed Auto Bachao Committee (ABC).

Within hours after Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee ended her sit-in demonstration near the chief minister’s residence against the arrest of auto drivers in Friday’s violence,a group of youths intercepted a West Bengal Surface Transport bus near Park Circus Bridge and forced passengers to get down from the vehicle. Later,they set the bus on fire around 9. 40 am. The bus was partially damaged before the fire was brought under control.

Within 20 minutes,another mob,allegedly auto-rickshaw drivers,stopped another government bus at Bondel Road and Broad Street crossing and asked passengers to get down from it. They later damaged the bus. The crowd retreated after a large police contingent led by Additional Commissioner of Police,K Harirajan reached the spot. Locals alleged that the miscreants also snatched cash and valuables from the passengers.

Two more government buses were set ablaze near AJC Bose Flyover and Ladies Park. Police sent reinforcements and also took recourse to lathicharge near the Park Circus crossing to bring the situation under control.

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