THE 60-YEAR-OLD Mocambo restaurant in Park Street has always been iconic for Kolkata’s gastronomes. But in the past week, things have changed. The long queues have disappeared. Protests and outrage have followed the restaurant’s alleged refusal to serve a taxi driver.
Now, the Kolkata Taxi Operators Union and West Bengal Taxi Operators Coordination — both affiliated to All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) — have decided not to drop or pick up people at Mocambo until the restaurant “issues a public apology”. The two outfits account for about 60 per cent of taxis plying in Kolkata.
Last Saturday, the restaurant allegedly refused to serve a woman because she was accompanied by her taxi driver. The customer, Dilash Hemnani — whose Facebook profile says she is a marketing manager at Tata Motors — wrote a post giving a detailed account of the alleged discrimination. “How shallow and inhuman have we become…”, she wrote.
Around 300 taxi drivers gathered outside Mocambo on Sunday afternoon — usually a time when the restaurant sees long queues of customers outside.
Naval Kishore Srivastava, president of the Taxi Operators Union, said: “We can’t convey how thankful we are to this woman to have taken up this issue. The problem isn’t limited to Mocambo, but also in other restaurants in this city. People continuously look down upon taxi drivers. We have decided that no taxi will pick up anyone from Mocambo or take anyone there, until the restaurant management apologises to us.”
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“We are confident that the matter will be taken up across party lines. We have already received positive responses from different parties,” he added. The driver who was allegedly turned away by Mocambo, Manish Tiwari, said: “The experience was very humiliating. I have never encountered this in all the years that I have been driving a taxi.”
The move by taxi drivers comes a day after a series of protests were organised by activists from different parties.